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Heathrow works with British Airways and partners to demonstrate how aviation is moving towards the “Perfect Flight”

Britain’s aviation industry has come together to operate a net zero flight.

The short flight – British Airways BA1476 from London Heathrow to Glasgow Airport – was powered directly by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), provided by bp, blended at 35% with traditional jet fuel in accordance with technical aviation specifications. The remaining emissions produced by the flight were offset.

The aim of the flight was to show how far the aviation industry has progressed in its efforts to decarbonise over the last decade. Several factors within the journey were calibrated to achieve minimal emissions – from British Airways’ Airbus aircraft being pushed back by electric Mototok vehicles powered by Heathrow’s supply of 100% renewable electricity, to flying on the most direct routing and optimal flight level.

The flight was operated by an Airbus A320neo, the quietest and most fuel-efficient short-haul aircraft currently in British Airways’ fleet.

Air traffic controllers at NATS directed the aircraft on its continuous climb from Heathrow and descent into Glasgow, avoiding any levelling off, which causes an increase in fuel burn. The most direct routing was provided by NATS as well as the most optimal flight level and the aircraft was able to land without airborne holding; techniques that successfully saved fuel and reduced emissions.

The flight achieved a 62% CO2 emissions reduction compared to a decade ago – 34% from efficient aircraft and operations, 28% from the use of sustainable aviation fuel and the remaining 38% offset using high quality, verified carbon offsets.

This move towards the ‘Perfect Flight’ showcases a number of the solutions that can help to reduce emissions associated with flying. The industry can use sustainable fuels, reduce fuel consumption by using more efficient routes in the air, and utilise electric plug in power while on the ground to make flights more sustainable. Airports can also follow Heathrow’s lead by offsetting remaining emissions, using natural solutions such as tree planting and peatland restoration to remove carbon.

SAF is a proven technology that can work across the world to decarbonise aviation. While the solutions exist, the UK Government needs to urgently implement policies to scale up SAF, encourage the production of sustainable fuel and have the right price incentives for airlines to use it. This includes setting escalating mandates that requires a minimum of 10% SAF use by airlines by 2030, which British Airways and its parent company IAG committed to recently, increasing to at least 50% by 2050.

Heathrow has been at the forefront of advocacy and change on reducing carbon emissions in the aviation sector. In addition to incorporating the first shipment of SAF into its fuel supply system back in June, the major airport has been running on 100% renewable electricity for almost 5 years, with ongoing plans to switch from gas heating by the mid-2030s, becoming fully zero carbon. 90% of the airport’s cars and small vehicles are electric, with £7m invested in electric charging points. Heathrow’s one of the best-connected airports in the country by public transport with Crossrail soon connecting travellers through central London in addition to the tube and Heathrow Express.

Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye told us:

The Perfect Flight shows that the solutions to deliver net zero flight exist, we just need to scale them up. The faster we scale up supply and use of sustainable aviation fuels, the faster we can decarbonise aviation and protect the benefits of flying in a world without carbon. What is needed urgently is for Government to introduce policies to increase the supply of SAF and to provide the right price incentives for airlines to use it.

British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, Sean Doyle said:  

This flight offered a practical demonstration of the progress we’re making in our carbon reduction journey. By working together with our industry partners we’ve delivered a 62% improvement in emissions reductions compared to a decade ago. This marks real progress in our efforts to decarbonise and shows our determination to continue innovating, working with Governments and industry and accelerating the adoption of new low carbon solutions to get us closer still to the Perfect Flight of the future.

With BA Better World, we’re making progress on our journey to a sustainable future and have adopted a range of short, medium and long-term initiatives to get us to net zero emissions. Together, we can build a future for aviation that delivers the wonders of air travel while reducing the impact on the environment.

Airbus’ Executive Vice President Corporate Affairs and Communications, Julie Kitcher, told us:

The A320neo is a great example of how far our industry has come.  It meets all the ICAO environmental standards thanks to advances in engines, aerodynamics, cabin and flight operations. The A320neo burns 20% less fuel, which means less CO2, compared to its predecessor and is 50% quieter. 

BP Aviation Division CEO, Martin Thomsen said:

We are honoured to join forces with British Airways on this important initiative. At bp we are focusing on working with hard-to-abate sectors, such as aviation, as part of our ambition to be net zero by 2050 or sooner and to help the world get there too. By working collaboratively with industries, we can help to accelerate decarbonisation and we believe SAF will be one of the key solutions to fulfil this for the aviation sector.

Glasgow Airport CEO, Derek Provan said:

This flight demonstrates the progress the industry has made during the last decade and how we can work collectively to decarbonise aviation. As one of the UK’s largest airport groups, we are committed to achieving net zero by mid 2030s. This involves decarbonising our own infrastructure, including the roll out of fixed electrical ground power (FEGP), which is powered using 100% renewable energy sources.

NATS CEO, Martin Rolfe said:

Live demonstrations like this show just what is possible and are an important step on the aviation industry’s path to net zero by 2050. We can learn a lot from flights like these, as they help us understand how to redesign the airspace over the UK and play our part in making flying sustainable for the future.

Teesside regains London Heathrow route with Eastern Airways

Teesside International Airport will regain its link to London Heathrow with Eastern Airways launching its first ever schedule flights from London’s world hub airport.

From 14 September 2020, the Teesside–Heathrow service will be served by a 76-seat E-Jet Embraer 170 aircraft, following a gap of more than a decade. The airline will initially offer a daily service to the capital which will offer passengers from Durham, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Hartlepool, Teesside and North Yorkshire hundreds of onward connections to the world.

This latest news at Teesside is a further expansion of Eastern Airways’ developing route network from the north east airport. Since restrictions have been eased following the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, the airline has reintroduced Teesside flights to Aberdeen and Belfast City while starting new routes to London City and Newquay.

The daily departures are timed to maximise the array of world-wide connections available while also supporting quick and easy access to London and the South-East on the circa 1-hour flight.

Roger Hage, Eastern Airways’ General Manager Commercial & Operations, said

As the UK’s Regional Airline, the opportunity for Eastern Airways to connect Teesside to London Heathrow, the UK’s primary hub for worldwide connections is significant in the region’s economic prosperity and economic recovery. Offering an initial daily e-Jet operated service helps add further London capacity and makes reaching the capital or getting to the North East a little over an hour away, with the array of connections world-wide this opens up. We look forward with our partners at Teesside International Airport and London Heathrow Airport to restoring such a major air-link missing for over a decade.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said

Ben Houchen – we have flights to one of our most-requested destinations

Since I did a deal to take back control of our airport last year to save it from closure, we’ve announced some brilliant new daily and seasonal routes.

But whenever I’ve revealed a new service people have said, ‘that’s great, but what about a connection to Heathrow?’

Well, I can now say we have flights to one of our most-requested destinations, and it starts next month. Whether people from Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool are looking to travel for business or pleasure, they now have a range of options for getting to London.

This is another massive vote of confidence in our airport and I’d like to thank Heathrow and Eastern Airways for working with us to realise a key route for any serious airport.

Our airport is much more than just flights though; it is hugely important to our local economy and it is playing a key part in my plan for jobs. I’ve always said that investment won’t come on a bus, it will come through our airport terminal which in turn will create good quality local jobs for local workers.

John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport, said

John Holland-Kaye – delighted that Eastern Airways will launch a Heathrow connection

We are delighted that Eastern Airways will launch a new connection between Teesside and Heathrow for the first time in over a decade. Adding the UK’s hub airport to Teesside’s network demonstrates the growth ambitions of the Tees Valley region, and will provide a vital levelling-up boost – unlocking a huge amount of potential for the region as we build the UK’s economic recovery.

Heathrow is committed to strengthening our regional connections across the UK with our discount on domestic routes, and we believe this new service will be a springboard for the great businesses in the region to reach out to the world. We’re looking forward to welcoming the first passengers in September.

Initially Eastern Airways’ usual complimentary on-board service will be limited to facilitate reduced customer contact.

Services continue to be carefully reintroduced since Covid-19 restrictions began to ease with extensive cleaning measures on-board and throughout all aspects of the airport. A full anti-bacterial wipe down of all touch points between every service operated and also a comprehensive aircraft night-stop sanitisation is implemented.

Eastern Airways was formed in 1997 and had moved quickly, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, to return back to its own standalone booking facilities after its former franchise partner, Flybe, went into administration earlier in March.

The Humberside Airport-based carrier offers a network of routes from airports including Aberdeen, Anglesey, Belfast City, Cardiff, Dublin, Humberside, Isle of Man, Leeds Bradford, London City, Manchester, Newcastle, Newquay, Southampton and Teesside International and a broad array of contract and ad-hoc charters with a mixed jet and turbo-prop fleet.

If you need to fly between Teesside and London – or any other route offered by Eastern Airways – contact your GTM Account Manager.

Industry leaders answer GTM’s client’s questions on business travel, coronavirus measures and the future use of the UK’s busiest airport

Senior travel industry representatives have set out a clear roadmap for business travel growth through London’s busiest airport and have answered questions from GTM’s clients. 

Global Travel Management was one of a selected group of travel management companies to address John Holland-Kaye and Clive Wratten in an online Q&A. 

Holland-Kaye, CEO of London Heathrow Airport repeated his calls for a “Common International Standard for health in aviation”, which would pave the way for infection-free passengers to be able to travel freely.  And Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association (BTA) set out his organisation’s five-point plan to get business travel moving again. 

Global Travel Management’s clients were asked what questions they would like to see put to the industry figures.

Global Travel Management Managing Director Scott Pawley asked

The key to stimulating travel and to ensure clients see a swift and comprehensive return to travel plans is confidence.  Until clients have confidence that their travel objectives can be met safely, there remains a barrier to returning to travel.  What specific measures can we tell our clients that Heathrow is undertaking to ensure all travel meets with social distancing guidance and that airport staff, as well as passengers, are screened for coronavirus symptoms?

John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, called for a Common International Standard for health in aviation

Holland-Kaye explained that the Common International Standard for health in aviation is something that needs to be in place and confirmed that the UK government is in a good place to bring together international parties to ensure that this happens. 

He also explained that Heathrow is taking several steps to ensure safe, secure passage through the airport for business and leisure travellers:

  • Passengers and staff will be required to wear face masks at the airport  
  • Surfaces will undergo more rigorous and frequent cleaning
  • Hand sanitiser will be made available for general use
  • Investments will be made to ensure zero-touch passage through security becomes the norm – this investment may take up to two years to put in place
  • Once passengers are screened, through security and air-side, the comprehensive use face masks will reduce the need to adhere to typical two metre social distancing

Paul Baker, Sales Director of Global Travel Management asked

Does Heathrow Airport Ltd have plans to instigate something similar to the testing on arrival carried out at Vienna Airport, which helps infection-free passengers avoid quarantine?

Holland-Kaye explained that tests should be carried prior to departure, rather than on arrival, and repeated his request for a Common International Standard to include an internationally agreed permit to guarantee arrival.

Wratten also explained the BTA’s five-point plan.

BTA CEO Clive Wratten has set out a clear, five-point plan to get businesses travelling again

The BTA recognises the many and complex challenges ahead in the fight against Covid-19, but firmly believes the following five key steps are necessary to get the business world travelling again:

  1. Timeframe – No one knows when travel can begin, and this missing date means consumers and businesses cannot be confident about future journeys. We need to move from a restriction of “All but essential” to “Essential business travel permitted”.
  2. International co-operation and clarity – The BTA is arguing for a set of globally consistent guidelines on social distancing, the use of masks and other hygiene measures.
  3. Protected travellers – When Governments and travel providers give the green light, the need to ensure everyone stays safe will remain crucial. This requires insurance to cover employees when they travel and, in case of disruption or infection, that businesses’ actions will not cause employee concern or dissent.
  4. Safe services – Airlines, airports, train companies, car rental firms, hotels and other accommodation providers will need to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt, the steps they are taking to ensure cleanliness and social distancing. This could be overseen by travel associations such as the BTA across the globe with a recognisable marque provided to those who meet the criteria.
  5. Competitive pricing – Economies are being squeezed; companies are under pressure. Hence, travel budgets for the latter half of this year, and for 2021, will be challenging. Consequently, all elements of the business travel supply chain will need to ensure they remain highly competitive on pricing. Achieving this requires government intervention and financial commitment today to keep struggling businesses afloat – both in the business travel sector and amongst those who buy from it. 

We would like to thank Clive Wratten and John Holland-Kaye for taking the time to answer these questions.