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Heathrow Airport: Passengers Are Prepared To Pay More To Fly Sustainably

Major figures in aviation are keen to transform the industry to operate in a net-zero ecosystem by the time the 2050s are in full swing. The likes of Airbus and its customers have doubled down on its initiatives with plans to introduce zero-emission aircraft during the middle of the next decade. While these motives have great intentions, there has been some concern about the price of the transition to the customer due to the cost of implementing sustainable solutions.

There are grand sustainability ambitions across the aviation market, but Heathrow’s management believes passengers are on the same page. Photo: Heathrow Airport

The way it is

Even though they have intentions to operate more sustainably, many airlines have already shared their frustrations about the cost of deploying sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The cost of sourcing and deploying these fuels are up to five times higher than traditional jet fuels.

Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye expresses that there isn’t much of a choice amid the urgency of the matter. However, there are calls for support from authorities on the situation. Notably, if there isn’t a common goal, then there could be greater pushes for the reduction of flying amid the severe implications of carbon emissions.

“This isn’t optional. We’ve got to do this. So, we will all have to pay to make the transition. If we want to fly, we’ll need to pay our way. Now, it may well be that, over time, as sustainable aviation fuel scale up, the costs will become more in line with where they are today. That would be a great position to get to. It may well be the governments will help to fund that transition as the US government is doing, and that will keep costs down in the transitional period, but we have to get on and make this happen. If we don’t, then the cost will not be a few pounds on the ticket price,” Holland-Kaye shared at the Airbus Summit in Toulouse last week.

“We’ve got to get on and make this happen. It may well be that the flying does cost a little bit more, but that will be a price worth paying. Now, people are prepared to pay more, and we’ve been working through the Prince of Wales’ sustainable markets initiative and the World Economic Forum to encourage corporate affiliates who are a very big part of the flying economy to pay for sustainable aviation fuels today so that they can help to stimulate the transition and get the demand flowing through. A lot of big corporations are now signing up for that. It’s part of their ability to meet their Scope 3 emissions targets, which all major companies have.”

Heathrow Departure
Sustainable aviation fuels are tipped to be the initial focus in the sustainable transition while other solutions continue to mature. Photo: Heathrow Airport

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Collaboration needed

Holland-Kaye adds that a level playing field is needed worldwide. All nations need to come on board in regard to the decarbonization of aviation. This process is a significant challenge as aviation is not included in standard climate change agreements. The procedure is handled through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Thus, when the ICAO General Assembly meets next September, there needs to be a global commitment to net-zero aviation by 2050 and a strategy for how to get there.

Altogether, Heathrow’s leadership believes that sustainable aviation fuel will lead the mission. However, sustainability is not limited to this factor amid electric and hydrogen initiatives. Regardless, the airport is impressed by the way the aviation industry has taken ownership. Holland-Kaye notes that approximately 75% of the airlines that serve Heathrow have already committed to net-zero.

Additionally, over 60% of these carriers have committed to a minimum of 10% sustainable aviation fuels usage by 2030. While momentum is gathering, there needs to be a greater drive for governments to push commitments to net-zero in aviation for stakeholders across the globe to work toward the same goal.

Before the global health crisis, Heathrow was the busiest airport in Europe, with over 80 million passengers passing through annually, and it has previously proudly highlighted that it would become one of the first major airports to go carbon neutral. Photo: Getty Images

Global prospects

Sustainable aviation fuels can be adapted to different regions. For instance, in Nordic nations, there are numerous forestry industries that cause plenty of forest waste, which can be used for SAFs. Moreover, countries such as India can use agricultural waste while places like the Philippines are developing domestic waste as a solution.

Overall, different technologies can be applied globally, but Holland-Kaye concludes that the crucial factor is that countries and companies have options to allow them to reap the benefits. It’s essential that certain economies don’t tell people to stop flying. There needs to be cooperation and balance as the industry heads towards decarbonization.

What are your thoughts about the decarbonization of aviation and the overall factors involved? Are you prepared to pay more to travel following these targets? Let us know what you think in the comment section.

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