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British Airways operates first carbon neutral flight

The carbon neutral Airbus plane

A British Airways passenger flight has used sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for the first time.

The airline said the flight on Tuesday from London Heathrow to Glasgow also involved air traffic service provider NATS, fuel giant BP and Airbus.

The short journey on the airline’s new special liveried sustainability aircraft replicated a flight British Airways operated to Edinburgh in 2010.

At the time, neither offsetting nor sustainable aviation fuel were available to reduce the flight’s impact on the environment, and the journey was operated on an older aircraft carrying fewer passengers.  

The aim of this week’s flight was to show how far the aviation industry has progressed in its efforts to decarbonise over the last decade.

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The flight was operated by an Airbus A320neo, the quietest and most fuel-efficient short-haul aircraft currently in British Airways’ fleet. Thanks to advances in engines, aerodynamics, cabin and flight operations, A320neos burn 20% less fuel, which means 20% less CO2, and are 50% quieter compared to its predecessor which operated the flight in 2010. 

Since then, British Airways has made changes including installing newer, lighter seats on the new aircraft, lighter catering trollies and has replaced heavy flight manuals and inflight magazines with digital downloads, all helping to reduce the weight of the aircraft, contributing to lower fuel use and lower emissions.

The flight was directly powered by sustainable aviation fuel, provided by bp, blended at 35% with traditional jet fuel in accordance with technical aviation specifications.

The aircraft was pushed back using one of the airline’s electric Mototok vehicles, powered by Heathrow’s supply of 100% renewable electricity. Just one of the aircraft’s engines was used to taxi to the runway, almost halving the power used to start its journey. 

The airline’s chief executive Sean Doyle said: “This flight offered a practical demonstration of the progress we’re making in our carbon reduction journey.

“By working together with our industry partners we’ve delivered a 62% improvement in emissions reductions compared to a decade ago.

“This marks real progress in our efforts to decarbonise and shows our determination to continue innovating, working with governments and industry and accelerating the adoption of new low carbon solutions to get us closer still to the perfect flight of the future.”

Last week British Airways launched a sustainability programme named BA Better World, which included a series of initiatives to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.



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