The race to be the world’s greenest airline heated up this week, when Air France claimed to have successfully completed the flight with the lowest carbon emissions on record.
The 80-minute commercial flight between Toulouse and Paris used a three-way mixture of biofuels, reduced on-board mass and hyper-efficient flight procedures to achieve just half the levels of CO2 emitted by standard flights of the same length, it said.
The fuel was made up of a mixture of normal kerosene and biokerosene, which was derived from hydrogenated used vegetable oils. Compared to standard biofuels made from agricultural biomass, Air France said that this is a far more renewable and sustainable fuel source with lower environmental impact.
The optimised flying methods included taxiing to take-off and after landing using one engine only, continuous climbing and descending – normally the process takes place in stages – and flying as direct a route as possible. Lighter seating on board also led to less mass and therefore less fuel consumption – the entire Air France short-haul fleet now has these seats installed, the carrier stressed.
With cheap holidays abroad largely dependent on cheap flights, but concerns about flying’s impact on the environment increasing, airlines have been seeking to prove they can clean up their act without the need for more punitive air taxes – which they warn could threaten cheap flights altogether.
At the start of the month, Spanish flag carrier also staged a flight using a standard fuel/biofuel mixture, between Madrid and Barcelona, which it claims saved 1500 kg of CO2 emissions. And just a couple of days later, on the 6th, Thomson Airways in the UK flew passengers to Arrecife in Lanzarote, with a combination of “hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids”, produced from used cooking oil and standard jet fuel.
The big question now is whether these flights are just green publicity stunts or do they herald the dawn of a new way of greener flying worldwide?