Etihad Airways has operated its first net-zero flight using a book-and-claim system for buying sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
The airline said it had worked with sustainable fuel specialist World Energy to achieve net-zero on a Washington Dulles-Abu Dhabi long-haul flight, even though no SAF was used to power the aircraft.
Instead, Etihad used a book-and-a claim system to help make the flight net-zero by purchasing SAF, which was delivered by World Energy to Los Angeles International (LAX) where it was added to the airport’s main fuel supply tanks and sold as conventional jet fuel.
Book-and-claim allows companies to pay for SAF and claim the benefits, even if the fuel is not supplied at their departure airport, with the fuel instead being used at an airport where SAF is available.
Purchasing SAF along with operational efficiencies allowed Etihad to reduce CO2 emission by 250 metric tonnes for the net-zero flight between the US and Abu Dhabi.
The service was also Etihad’s first transatlantic flight to use contrail-reducing technology, which was supplied by UK-based green aerospace specialist Satavia.
Etihad had originally planned to run the net-zero transatlantic flight using a blend of SAF and traditional jet fuel with a stop at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt to deliver delegates to the COP27 climate conference.
“However, the challenges inherent in current global SAF regulations, policy, infrastructure and supply made this ambition contradictory and would have significantly reduced the climate benefits,” said the airline in a statement.
Mariam Alqubaisi, head of sustainability and business excellence at Etihad Airways, added: “This flight has proved book-and-claim is the only feasible path to net-zero commercial aviation using current technology, and is the transition framework required until the supply of sustainable aviation fuel reaches its maturity and availability.
“Net-zero commercial aviation is possible, but we have to be honest as an industry and say there are significant logistical challenges to using SAF at present.”