Ryanair has commenced using a 40% blend of sustainable aviation fuel in all its operations from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport through a new agreement with renewable fuel producer Neste, advancing the carrier’s goal of 12.5% SAF use across all its flights by 2030. The European low-cost airline did not disclose details of the volume of fuel to be acquired or the term of the agreement. The deal builds upon a recent MoU between Ryanair and Shell through which the energy company will supply SAF at more than 200 European airports served by Ryanair between 2025 and 2030. Neste has started providing renewable diesel fuel to power ground service vehicles at Schiphol, which is targeting net zero emissions by 2030. The airport has proposed a night closure, a ban on private jets and the scrapping of plans for a new runway as part of becoming “quieter, cleaner and better”.
Ryanair operates a total of 63 flights per week from Schiphol, flying to both Dublin, the airline’s home base, and the Spanish resort of Malaga. Thomas Fowler, the airline’s Director of Sustainability, said the new deal with Neste, which took effect this month, boosted Ryanair’s use of SAF at Amsterdam from one third of its departures to all services. “Increasing the use of SAF is a fundamental pillar of our Pathway to Net Zero by 2050 decarbonisation strategy,” he said. “This increase at Amsterdam will reduce greenhouse gas emissions of our flights from there by 32%.”
However, the Amsterdam deal will make only an incremental difference to Ryanair’s total decarbonisation effort, given the carrier’s steep growth projections for the next five years. In its recent Q3 financial update, the airline said it operated more than 3,200 flights each day across a network of 2,450 routes, serving 236 airports with a fleet 523 aircraft, and flagged a total of 168 million passenger journeys for the full financial year. It also forecast a rise to 185 million passenger journeys in 2024, 205 million in 2025 and 225 million in 2026.
In addition to the recent partnership with Shell, which the airline said could potentially provide access to 360,000 tonnes of SAF, or 120 million gallons, over a five-year period, Ryanair continues to introduce new, more fuel-efficient, Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, of which it already operates more than 80 from a total order of 210. As well, the airline recently signed a $175 million agreement with Aviation Partners Boeing to retrofit new split scimitar devices to the wingtips of its existing fleet of more than 400 Boeing 737-800NG jets that would help reduce aerodynamic drag in flight and cut fuel consumption by up to 1.5%. Ryanair estimates that the devices, the first of which have already been installed, will reduce annual fuel consumption by more than 65 million litres and carbon emissions by 165,000 tonnes.
“Decarbonising aviation is more important than ever, and we are proud to support Ryanair in achieving their ambitious Pathway to Net Zero by 2050,” said Alexander Kuper, VP EAME for Neste’s renewable aviation division. “Increasing the usage of SAF to all flights departing from Schiphol is a major milestone enabling Ryanair to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions of its operations at the airport.”
Neste has also signed SAF agreements this year with three other European carriers – Brussels Airlines, Wizz Air and Finnair. In January, Brussels Airlines received the first supply of Neste SAF pumped to Brussels Airport via NATO’s Central European Pipeline System (CEPS). Neste also reached agreement with Wizz Air, providing the airline “the opportunity to purchase” 36,000 tonnes of SAF per year for three years, starting in 2025, for use in its European and UK operations. Finnair has purchased 750 tonnes of SAF from Neste as part of its ambition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. The airline said this was sufficient to power around 400 flights between Helsinki and Stockholm if using unblended 100% SAF.
In addition to its SAF deals with airlines, Neste has begun supplying HVO100 renewable diesel product to replace conventional diesel fuel in all ground handing vehicles and machinery at Schiphol, where 40% of vehicles are already electrically-powered. “This is a significant step on the way towards a zero-emission ground operation in 2030,” said Denise Pronk, Head of Sustainability for the airport’s management company Royal Schiphol Group. “The vehicles for which there are currently no electric or hydrogen alternatives available can run on renewable diesel. Everyone on airside, where the loads are moved to or from aircraft, is making use of it.”
While Ryanair is planning to cut its emissions at Schiphol, the airport is at the centre of controversial attempts by its main shareholder, the Dutch government, to further reduce aircraft emissions and noise by introducing measures including a ban on flight departures between midnight and 6am, and arrivals between midnight and 5am.
The decision, announced by Royal Schiphol Group, was temporarily blocked by a Dutch court after the airline industry successfully argued the airport operator acted without required consultation.
Welcoming the court’s preliminary decision, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the Dutch government had unilaterally decided to reduce flight movements at Schiphol Airport from 500,000 to 440,000 per year.
“We believed no legal basis existed for this reduction,” said IATA. “It violates international treaties and European regulations. Governments can lower the number of flight movements in order to reduce noise, but only after having a careful process, consisting of, for example, assessing the current noise level, setting a noise goal and considering alternative measures. This did not occur.”
Joining IATA in its legal action were KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Air Canada, United Airlines, JetBlue, Lufthansa, British Airways, Vueling, FedEx and advocacy group Airlines for America (A4A).
Justifying its future ban on private jets and small business aviation, the airport operator said this sector caused a “disproportionate amount of noise nuisance and CO2 emissions per passenger – around 20 times more CO2 compared to a commercial flight.” Private jet flights to holiday destinations make up 30-50% of all such flights from Schiphol, it added.
The night time and private jet measures would apply no later than 2025-2026, expects Schiphol. It also wants to keep 2.5% of available take-off and landing slots for cargo flights, which it believes are under threat due to international slot regulations. However, cargo flights will have to conform with new tighter rules for noisier aircraft and the new night closure measure.
The airport has also abandoned plans for an additional parallel runway and, together with central government, is setting up an environmental fund for the local area. Between now and 2030 it intends investing a total of €70 million ($76m) in innovative construction concepts, home insulation and area development “for an improved living environment”.
“Schiphol connects the Netherlands with the rest of the world. We want to keep doing that but we must do it better,” commented Ruud Sondag, CEO of Royal Schiphol Group, on the measures. “The only way forward is to become quieter and cleaner more rapidly. We have thought about growth but too little about its impact for too long. We need to be sustainable for our employees, the local environment and the world.
“I realise that our choices may have significant implications for the aviation industry, but they are necessary. This shows we mean business. It is the only way, based on concrete measures, to regain the trust of employees, passengers, neighbours, politics and society.”
Photo: Ryanair (Piotr Mitelski)