1 December 2021

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

British Airways marks lifting of US Covid travel restrictions with SAF flight to New York

British Airways’ first flight to the United States since the lifting today of Covid-19 restrictions for most British travellers to the country has been powered by blended sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). In a synchronised take-off with Virgin Atlantic to New York JFK, BA001, a flight number previously reserved for Concorde, was powered by 35% SAF made from used cooking oil supplied by bp. Although not the first transatlantic flight to be powered by SAF, British Airways believes it is the first to be operated with such a significant level. Current regulations stipulate the maximum blend passenger aircraft can use is 50%, although airframe and engine manufacturers have recently pledged to work towards raising the limit to 100%. BA’s parent company IAG has committed to operating 10% of its flights using SAF by 2030.

The majority of BA’s New York services are operated on Boeing 777 aircraft, following the retirement of its final Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet in 2020. Flight BA001 is operating on its newest aircraft, the Airbus A350, as a demonstrator flight to highlight, says British Airways, the airline’s decarbonisation initiatives and what’s possible by using the latest technology.  

In addition, BA is offsetting all emissions associated with the flight. In September, it announced customers can purchase SAF to reduce their carbon footprint through its not-for-profit partner Pure Leapfrog in addition to the existing offsetting option. In all, BA is operating 26 flights to the US today, as fully vaccinated British travellers are now able to travel between the two countries for the first time since March 2020.

“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,” commented Sean Doyle, British Airways’ CEO.

“Whilst 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 UK government’s continued support to ensure the development and mass production of SAF continues at pace.”

In September, BA announced a collaboration with bp to source SAF in respect of all flights between London, Glasgow and Edinburgh during the COP26 climate conference in Scotland. The SAF for today’s flight to New York has come from this batch, said BA.

Photo: British Airways Airbus A350

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