British Airways (BA) has launched a new campaign to demonstrate it is serious about sustainability and the reduction of its carbon footprint. Called ‘BA Better World’, the program is mostly about promoting the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and not so much about actually reduce flying, something tried by KLM with its ‘Fly Responsibly’-campaign in 2019. In a separate event, easyjet had news about its Wright Electric project, so UK airlines push sustainability projects.

BA Better World was launched during a media event in one of the airlines’ huge maintenance hangars at London Heathrow. It unveiled an Airbus A320neo with a special white and light-blue livery that reminds us a bit of Etihad’s Greenliner Boeing 787-9.

BA and its parent International Airlines Group (IAG) are committed to becoming net zero on carbon emissions by 2050, as outlined in its Flightpath Net Zero 2050. This is to be partly achieved by offsetting schemes that passengers can buy since January 2020 to offset emissions on their flight and by operating the latest generation of cleaner aircraft. IAG has invested in the Airbus A320neo-family, A350, Boeing 787, and 777X which are all cleaner compared to their predecessors.

In April, IAG committed itself to use SAFs on ten percent of its flights in 2030 and invest $400 million until 2040 in the development of these fuels, which can be produced from waste. For this, BA has formed partnerships with fuel and technology companies to develop new production plants. Partners include Velocys in the UK and LanzaJet in the US. Velocys hopes to open a plant in Lincolnshire within five years with a production capacity equivalent to fuel for 1.000 flights between London and New York. LanzaJet should have its plant in Georgia ready by the end of 2022.

BA passengers can purchase SAF

Today, BA announced two new initiatives. It will purchase SAFs from BP and use it as a blend-in fuel on all its flights between London Heathrow, Gatwick, and London City Airport to Edinburgh and Glasgow during the forthcoming COP26 climate summit between October 31 and November 12 in Glasgow. BA says using SAFs will reduce lifecycle carbon reduction by eighty percent.

The second initiative is that passengers can purchase SAF to reduce their carbon footprint. This will be assisted by the airline’s not-for-profit organization Pure Leapfrog. Although BA is the first UK airline to offer this option, Lufthansa and SWISS have used SAF purchases since late 2019. The passenger pays for the price difference between traditional jet fuel and SAFs, which are about four times more expensive. With the proceeds from the Compensaid scheme, the two airlines will buy SAF for use on flights within six months after the passenger made the purchase.

While critics might qualify BA’s plans as greenwashing, CEO Sean Doyle said that his airline is serious about reducing its carbon footprint: “With BA Better World we’re on our most important journey yet – to a better, more sustainable future and one which will ensure the long-term success of our business. We’re clear that we have a responsibility to reduce our impact on the planet and have a detailed plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, including investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft, improving our operational efficiency, and investing in the development of sustainable aviation fuel and zero emissions aircraft.” Doyle stressed that in order to succeed, the airline needs full support from the UK government and industry.

Wright clears another step with a 2MW engine

Another UK airline to push sustainability projects is easyjet. It announced today that its partner Wright Electric has successfully tested a 2 megaWatt electric motor. The airline claims this is the most powerful electric motor for use in an aircraft. The next phase is to integrate the motor with an inverter and start high-altitude chamber testing on its roadmap to certification.

Wright is constructing a dedicated test facility in the US that will be completed this year. The facility has been funded by NASA, the US Department of Energy, the US Army, and the US Air Force. Ground tests are set to start this year and run through 2022. Wright hopes to flight test the electric system in 2023. The motor is scalable to up to 4 megaWatt, but Wright has planned ten 2 MW engines to propel its Wright 1 aircraft or equivalent to the power of an Airbus A320. easyjet started its partnership with Wright in 2017. The electric aircraft is developed for its short-haul network.

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