Sustainable Aviation: Increased cost of greener aviation will curtail pax demand

By Kristiane Sherry |

Matt Gorman, Sustainability Aviation’s chair, notes that sustainable flying will cost more.

Cost increases associated with the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) mean flights will become more expensive and demand will be hit, UK industry group Sustainable Aviation has said.

In its Net Zero Carbon Road-Map, the aviation collective, which counts UK airlines, airports, manufacturers and air navigation service providers as members, also said the UK risked losing a potential of 60,000 jobs and its position as a global leader in air travel sustainability without more government support. 

In its updated strategy document, it confirmed that UK aviation can continue to grow while meeting its commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The launch of the report coincides with the Sustainable Skies World Summit, taking place this week in Farnborough, UK.

In addition to celebrating the UK’s pioneering role in the development of SAF (at least eight producers are planning plants in the country, in addition to the active Philipps 66 site on the Humber), the report praises advances in airspace modernisation.

Yet it points to the “reality” that the increased cost of decarbonising aviation will “inevitably reduce passenger demand”.

“The demand reduction due to the costs of decarbonisation represents around 14 percent of the industry’s reduction in CO2 emissions,” Sustainable Aviation said in a statement. 

“However, this modelling also shows that, even with slightly higher costs, people still want to fly, with overall growth in passenger numbers of almost 250 million by 2050.”

In his opening address in the report, Matt Gorman, Chair, Sustainable Aviation, said: “Increased costs for industry and consumers could have some impact on future demand for air travel, but our work shows that significant ongoing growth can be achieved at the same time as decarbonising aviation.” 

Sustainable Aviation estimates that 9.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) could be saved due to the decarbonisation cost impact on demand.

Other measures which will contribute to meeting the net-zero carbon commitment include fleet upgrades and direct and direct air capture methods. 

The full Net Zero Carbon Road-Map can be found on Sustainable Aviation’s website. 

The projected pathway to net-zero carbon for the UK’s aviation industry.

“This is the critical decade where aviation must prove it will decarbonise,” Gorman said in a statement.

“Our updated Net Zero Carbon Road Map shows that we have a clear, credible path to take the carbon out of flying. Through a combination of Sustainable Aviation Fuel, more efficient aircraft and airspace, zero emission planes and carbon removals, we can protect the huge benefits of aviation for future generations without the carbon cost.”

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic, added: “This Road-Map highlights the critical role that Sustainable Aviation Fuel will need to play in decarbonising UK aviation. 

“As well as helping to meet our collective net zero 2050 goal, a UK SAF industry supports our energy security and creates economic growth through an innovative new green industry. 

“With the right level of Government support and partnership across industry we can make this vision a reality, securing a more sustainable future for the UK’s world leading aviation sector.”

Last month, Heathrow Airport confirmed its own net-zero plan is ‘consistent’ with a 1.5-degree pathway, although it was failing to meet a number of its own targets.

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