Thomson Airways will become Britain’s first airline to fly customers on biofuel – one made from cooking oil – when it operates a service to Spain next month.
The British airline, owned by Europe’s biggest tour operator TUI Travel, has said it planned to operate the flight from Birmingham to Palma on July 28 once final safety clearance was received.
Weekly flights to Spain using biofuel will begin in September for a year, on the same route initially and switching to Birmingham-Alicante during the winter schedule.
Thomson said the flights would operate on a 50/50 blend of Jet A1 fuel and hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) fuel – made from used cooking oil – in both of the plane’s engines.
Dutch airline KLM operated the world’s first scheduled biokerosene-powered flight on Wednesday after one of its Boeing 737-800 jets flew 171 passengers between Amsterdam and Paris, using the same cooking oil-Jet-A mix that Thomson plans to use.
Thomson managing director Chris Browne said: “As sustainable biofuels become more commercially viable, Thomson Airways plans to expand its use of sustainable biofuels across its fleet over the next three years.”
European airlines, biofuel producers and the EU Commission last week signed up to produce 2m tonnes of biofuel for aviation by 2020.
KLM, which merged with Air France in 2004, operated a one-off passenger flight using biofules in 2009 – the world’s first – and now plans to launch scheduled biokerosene-fuelled services between Holland and France in September.
While airlines are keen to use biofuels as a way of cutting down on pollution, the use of food crops, such as palm oil, in their production has come under fire for taking land that could be used to feed people.
Thomson said the fuel for its maiden biofuel-powered flight would be supplied by Dutch company, SkyNRG, which is advised by an independent sustainability board.
Sustainable biofuels costs significant more than regular jet fuel and is a premium that the airline industry cannot sustain today.
“The British government believes that sustainable biofuels have a role to play in efforts to tackle climate change, particularly in sectors where no other viable low carbon energy source has been identified – as is the case with aviation,” aviation minister Theresa Villiers said.
Using biofuels will help Thomson meet owner TUI Travel’s plan to reduce the carbon emissions from its airlines by 6pc from 2008-14.