Air France-KLM, on Tuesday, flew its Airbus A350 from Paris to Montreal on biofuel by mixing sustainable aviation fuel petroleum with a synthetic jet fuel derived from waste cooking oils.

The passenger jet took off from the airport with its fuel capacity being made up of 16 per cent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), one that was produced in France from used cooking oil by Total, AFP reported.

Air-France said such a flight was its first long-haul and the feat was unprecedented. The company said the effort was to show readiness to adopt low-emission fuel in the bid to spur the aviation industry’s sluggish pace to adopt the policy.

The move is seen as a breakthrough in the industry and it is believed to tip regulators and governments on the options they have as they look to reduce greenhouse emissions.

AFP reported that Air France-KLM announced its initiative by the tarmac at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, an announcement that featured the company’s CEO, Benjamin Smith, and his counterparts at Total, Patrick Pouyanne, and Airbus, Guillaume Faury.

The flight signalled a “shared ambition to decarbonize air transportation and to develop a SAF supply chain in France”, AFP quoted the the companies as saying in a joint statement with airport operator ADP.

France’s transport minister, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, said in a tweet Wednesday that the alliance was proof that “there is another way. We show that the biggest part of the solution lies in technological innovation.”

Il est 15h40. Le vol AF342 vient de décoller de Roissy, direction Montréal. C’est le tout premier vol long-courrier avec du biocarburant aérien durable produit en France.

— Jean-Baptiste Djebbari (@Djebbari_JB) May 18, 2021

Total also tweeted a video, saying “Sustainable Air Fuel (SAF) is a concrete way forward to reduce the carbon footprint of air transportation.”

✈️⛽♻️ Sustainable Air Fuel (SAF) is a concrete way forward to reduce the carbon footprint of air transportation. By teaming up with major players in the sector, we can accelerate its development together!

— Total (@Total) May 18, 2021

Airlines have a “major responsibility” to cut emissions, Air France-KLM Chief Executive Ben Smith told Reuters, adding that “We have to be on a level playing field. We can’t have a situation where airlines that are based outside Europe can undercut us, (and) that is a real concern.”

Other airlines and plane-makers have started testing different levels of biofuels and sustainable fuel to see the best variant that can be effective and cost effective.

These jet fuels produced either from biomass or synthetically from renewable power could slash carbon emissions as countries look to meet the Paris agreement.

Global risk-assessment group CDP said most cities are not prepared to meet this target.

France remains a leader in the drive, the group said, as the country looks to ensure flights departing its airports use 1 per cent SAF, ahead of European Union’s goal to reach 2 per cent carbon emission by 2025 and 5 per cent by 2030 under the bloc’s Green Deal policy.

Although, the experimented jet fuels will cost more than the usual kerosene used by airplanes. Aviation players, particularly in Europe, would have to choose between cutting emissions and cost implications. Analysts believe the latter choice might be daunting for smaller airlines.


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