Thomson becomes first airline to fly customers on biofuel

Thomson Airways is making aviation history by becoming the first UK airline to fly customers on sustainable biofuel at the end of the month. It has also urged the airline industry and government to work together to develop a framework that facilitates the wider use of this sustainable fuel.
Thomson becomes first airline to fly customers on biofuel

The UK-based airline Thomson Airways will operate the UK’s first sustainable biofuel flight from Birmingham to Palma on the Spanish island of Majorca on 28 July 2011, once its stringent testing process has been completed and final safety clearance has been received. Weekly flights will follow on the same route from September.

The fuel is supplied by Dutch-based company, SkyNRG, who is advised by an independent Sustainability Board consisting of two leading NGOs and a leading European scientific institute.

Thomson Airways explains that it “places sustainability in aviation at the top of its priorities” and firmly believes “the adoption of sustainable biofuels by airlines will help achieve the Government’s recently announced carbon budget which commits the UK to reduce its carbon emissions by 50% by 202”5. Most notably, it says, sustainable biofuel has the potential to reduce aviation emissions by up to 80% in the long-term.

However, sustainable biofuels currently trade at a significant premium over regular jet fuel, a premium that the airline industry cannot sustain, and Thomson therefore believes it is imperative that UK and EU governments should consider ways to incentivise the use of, and investment into, sustainable aviation biofuels.

“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,” comments Aviation Minister, Theresa Villiers. “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.”

The landmark announcement reiterates Thomson Airways’ position at the forefront of sustainable aviation. The airline already operates one of the highest load factors in the UK industry and therefore makes the most efficient use of its fleet and of the airport slots made available to it. The airline also operates with an emission rate of 75g carbon dioxide per passenger kilometre flown, significantly lower than average emission rates for both low cost and full service scheduled carriers.

“Sustainability is key to this investment. Sustainable biofuels offer us the opportunity to improve our own individual environmental performance as well as contributing to the UK’s carbon reduction target,” states Chris Browne, Thomson Airways Managing Director. “We urge UK and EU governments to use this opportunity to review the legislation and remove the barriers around sustainable biofuels so that other airlines can follow our lead.”

At this stage, it is anticipated that the weekly sustainable biofuel flights will operate for one year from Birmingham to Palma in the summer and Birmingham to Alicante in the winter. As sustainable biofuels become more commercially viable, Thomson Airways plans to expand its use of sustainable biofuels across its fleet over the next three years.

For additional information:

Thomson Airways

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