08 November, 2021

Used cooking oil helps fuel British Airways Airbus A350 to New York

Used cooking oil helped to power a British Airways Airbus A350 to New York today, the first of the carriers US-bound flights to operate after the US lifted restrictions imposed on British travellers for more than 18 months.

The airline used the flight number BA001, previously adorning the New York club world service from London City Airport and prior to the carriers prestigious service for Concorde.  It was flown by one of a fuel-efficient Airbus A350 aircraft that was directly powered by a 35% blend of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) provided by bp and made from used cooking oil.  BA thinks this is the first commercial transatlantic flight ever to be operated with such a significant level of the fuel blended with traditional jet fuel*.  The blend of SAF used on the flight today means the overall CO2 emissions are more than 50 per cent less than those emitted by the now-retired 747 aircraft which previously operated on this route. 

In addition, British Airways also offset all emissions associated with the flight, to demonstrate the various ways in which the airline is decarbonising its operations **.

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is produced from sustainable feedstocks and is similar in chemistry to traditional fossil jet fuel. Using SAF results in a reduction in carbon emissions compared to the traditional jet fuel it replaces over the lifecycle of the fuel and can drop straight into existing fuel supply infrastructure and aircraft. It has the potential to provide a lifecycle carbon reduction of more than 80% compared to the traditional jet fuel it replaces

British Airways’ Chairman and CEO Sean Doyle said: “Today is about celebrating the UK-US reopening of the transatlantic corridor after more than 600 days of separation, and it was fantastic to be able to mark this by synchronising the take-off of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights for the first time ever.
While flying is vital to connect the world and support the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic, it’s important for us to use this moment to demonstrate how we’re driving our decarbonisation plans forward, and what the future will look like for aviation. That’s why we’ve directly powered our first flight to the US today with sustainable aviation fuel and offset emissions on behalf of our customers. We’re looking forward to the Government’s continued support to ensure the development and mass production of sustainable aviation fuel continues at pace.”

In a special coordinated arrangement, the British Airways flight took off from London Heathrow at exactly the same time as a Virgin Atlantic flight,  VS3, also to New York's JFK airport. 

UK Ambassador to the United States, Dame Karen Pierce DCMG, said:  “Today is an incredibly exciting and meaningful day for the UK-US relationship. We can all once again travel to each other’s countries to visit families, take holidays, and conduct transatlantic business. I am absolutely thrilled that safe and sustainable travel can fully resume between the UK and the United States.”

The lifting of the restrictions means that British and European airlines can restart operations across the Atlantic in a meaningful way.  BA for example is re-starting direct services to 17 US destinations with the airline set to extend its services to 23 US airports this winter, with up to 246 flights a week. The airline is increasing New York-bound flights from five to eight per day in December. Plus there will also be double-daily services to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Dallas, Miami and Toronto, as well as daily services to Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Atlanta, Denver, Houston and Vancouver.

Four aviation decarbonisation projects supported by British Airways recently received Government funding as part of the Department of Transport's Green Fuels, Green Skies (GFGS) competition. All of these projects have a clear potential to produce SAF capable of reducing emissions by more than 70% on a lifecycle basis when used in place of conventional fossil jet fuel***.

*Current regulations stipulate that the maximum sustainable aviation fuel blend passenger aircraft can use is 50%. Today’s flight is operating using 35% sustainable aviation fuel and 65% traditional jet fuel
**Carbon projects supported through voluntary carbon offsetting include the protection of the rainforests, improved cookstove distribution and the replacement of fossil fuel with wind and solar power
***British Airways is partnering with technology company Velocys on the Altalto project to build a commercial waste-to-SAF plant in Immingham, Lincolnshire. Project Speedbird is a collaboration between British Airways, LanzaJet and Nova Pangaea, using waste wood, with a goal of producing 100 million litres of sustainable fuel a year from 2025, sufficient to decarbonise 1,400 flights from London to New York operated by an A350 aircraft. The airline is also working on two further decarbonization projects with LanzaTech and LanzaJet that, if successful, could each produce more than 100 million litres a year of SAF. The first would involve capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and converting it into SAF. The second would support the development of a SAF plant in Port Talbot, South Wales that would produce SAF from waste and industrial gases, with the potential to support significant jobs in the area 

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