Tui-owned airline Thomson Airways has flown 232 passengers to Lanzarote yesterday aboard an aircraft that was powered by sustainable biofuel.
The four hour ‘landmark flight’ carried passengers from Birmingham Airport to Arrecife on a Boeing 757-200 which had one engine filled with “hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids”, produced from used cooking oil, and regular jet fuel.
The sustainable biofuel used by Thomson Airways is supplied by Dutch-based company SkyNRG, who is advised by an independent Sustainability Board consisting of two NGOs and a leading Government scientific institute.
Chris Browne, Thomson Airways Managing Director, says: “This is a very exciting day for Thomson Airways and a further step in our commitment to invest in sustainable aviation biofuel.
“We firmly believe the adoption of sustainable biofuels by airlines will help achieve the Government’s carbon budget which commits the UK to reduce its carbon emissions by 50% by 2025. Most strikingly, sustainable biofuel has the potential to reduce aviation emissions by up to 80% in the long term.” He added.
Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers said: “I very much welcome Thomson Airways’ announcement and wish them well with this project. The Government believes that sustainable biofuels have a role to play in efforts to tackle climate change, particularly in sectors where no other viable low carbon energy source has been identified – as is the case with aviation.
“We want aviation to flourish and grow but we have also been clear that the environmental impacts of flying must be addressed. I welcome the efforts being made by the UK aviation and aerospace industries to drive forward the technological change we need to tackle this challenge effectively.”
Following the first UK commercial sustainable biofuels flight, there will then be a short gap before the daily operations start from early 2012 for approximately six weeks.
Birmingham Airport is supporting the sustainable biofuel operation through the provision of a dedicated fuel truck, independent technical oversight and storage infrastructure. As sustainable biofuels become more commercially viable, Thomson Airways plans to expand its use of sustainable biofuels across its fleet.
Meanwhile a number of environmental groups have criticised the move, including ActionAid and Friends of the Earth.
Friends of the Earth claims using biofuels on flights is unsustainable this move could lead to the destruction of rainforests. ActionAid has described the move as ‘little more than greenwash’
Biofuel costs considerably more than ordinary jet fuel, so it is anticipated that the extra costs could be passed on to passengers, which could increase the cost of flying.
Thomson Airlines operates one of the highest load factors in the UK industry and claims to make the most efficient use of its fleet and of the airport slots made available to it.