Virgin Atlantic’s first 100% SAF flight showcase the potential of low carbon options


A Virgin Atlantic passenger jet powered by 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) successfully completed a London-to-New York jaunt on November 28 to showcase the potential of low-carbon options that make up a tiny fraction of the industry's fuel mix.

The flight operated by a Virgin Boeing 787 powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines will be the first time a commercial airline has flown long-haul on 100% SAF. It follows the successful transatlantic crossing by a Gulfstream G600 business jet using the same fuel last week.

(Photo: Virgin Atlantic)

According to Virgin Atlantic, the fuel used to power the flight is primarily made from used cooking oil and waste animal fat, blended with a small amount of synthetic aromatic kerosene produced from waste corn.

European airlines are increasing investments and signing deals to secure the supply of SAF needed to meet goals set by the EU aimed at reducing the aviation sector's carbon footprint.

Aviation accounts for an estimated 2% to 3% of global carbon emissions. While SAF is crucial for reducing those emissions, it remains costly and constitutes less than 0.1% of total global jet fuel in current use.

Here are some deals signed by European airlines so far:


The group invested $4.7 million in DG Fuels' SAF production plant in the U.S. state of Louisiana in Nov., a step towards its goal of using SAF for 10% of its flights by 2030.

It also said on Sep. 18 it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Austrian energy firm OMV to buy over 300,000 metric tons of SAF by 2030. The deal was followed by an offtake deal for OMV to provide the airline with 2,000 metric tons of SAF in 2023.

(Photo: KLM)


In Sep. 2022, the airline inked a five-year SAF supply agreement with Q8 Aviation, the jet fuel unit of Kuwait Petroleum International.


In June 2022, the Finnish carrier signed a $192 million deal with renewable fuel producer Gevo to purchase 21,000 metric tons of SAF per year from 2027.

(Photo: Pixabay/Sharon Ang)

IAG (International Airlines Group)

The owner of British Airways and Iberia in Aug. signed an agreement to buy 14,700 metric tons of SAF in 2023 from U.S. energy company Phillips 66. Microsoft was also involved in this deal as part of its efforts to cut emissions of its business travel and air freight.

In Nov. 2021, IAG and Southwest Airlines agreed to buy nearly 920,000 metric tons of SAF made from woody biomass in Mississippi. Under the deal, IAG will buy 220,000 metric tons of SAF over 10 years starting 2026, while Southwest will buy 670,000 tons over 15 years starting from the same year.


The carrier in Mar. said it had signed an MoU with green hydrogen developer IdunnH2 for the use of up to 45,000 metric tons of SAF from 2028 onwards.

(Photo: Pixabay/sharonang)


UK's Jet2 said in April it was making a "major investment" in a SAF production plant in northern England, with production expected to begin in 2027.


Germany's carrier in Aug. inked a letter of intent on the production and supply of SAF with chemicals firm HCS Group. Production in Germany is set to start in 2026 with a volume of 60,000 metric tons annually.


The company in Apr. worked with a local producer of electrofuels, Norsk e-Fuel, to construct a SAF production plant in the country. The plant is set to be operational in 2026 and it should secure approximately 20% of Norwegian's total SAF needs by 2030.


The Irish airline in Oct. bought 500 metric tons of SAF from OMV, as part of an MoU to buy up to 160,000 tons of SAF over eight years starting from 2023.

Ryanair also signed a supply agreement with Shell in Dec. 2022, to buy 360,000 metric tons of SAF from 2025 to 2030, a fifth of what it needs to achieve its target to power 12.5% of flights with the fuel by 2030.

(Photo: Pixabay/Bálint)


The budget carrier said in Apr. it would invest 5 million pounds in biofuel company Firefly, expecting to supply up to 525,000 metric tons of SAF to its UK operations from 2028.


The British airline collaborated with Neste in in 2022 to buy 2,000 metric tons of SAF. In Dec. last year, it agreed to buy 260,000 tons of SAF from Gevo by 2030, through a joint venture with U.S. airline Delta.

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