In a groundbreaking move for the aviation industry, Virgin Atlantic is set to embark on the first transatlantic flight powered entirely by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from Heathrow to New York JFK. Operated by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, this historic journey includes notable passengers such as Virgin founder Richard Branson, British Transport Secretary Mark Harper, and Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority meticulously reviewed and granted an operating permit after thorough assessments, including ground tests with an engine running on 100% SAF. Virgin Atlantic received £1 million (€1.15 million) from the British government to plan and execute this flight, aiming to underscore the efficacy of SAF in reducing carbon emissions.

SAF, derived from sustainable sources like agricultural waste and used cooking oil, offers a compelling solution to address the aviation industry’s carbon footprint.

Despite its current higher production cost compared to conventional jet fuel, SAF is pivotal in achieving sustainability goals.

U.S. production of SAF is expected to be 2.1 billion gallons by 2030, U.S. jet fuel currently retails at around $2.85 per gallon while SAF prices are at $6.69 per gallon, as per data from commodities and energy pricing agency Argus Media.

Virgin Atlantic’s commitment to using 10% SAF by 2030 underscores its dedication to environmental responsibility.

While the Department for Transport anticipates this flight to redefine international travel, the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) remains sceptical, emphasizing the challenges of scaling up SAF production sustainably.

Looking ahead, industry leaders have emphasized the importance of governmental support to incentivize SAF investment and domestic production. Achieving a net-zero future for aviation requires collaborative efforts and a shift towards sustainable practices.

This marks a significant step in the pursuit of eco-friendly aviation, and the industry looks to the future with optimism, hoping to make sustainable air travel the new norm.