British Airways Looks Toward Centenary, Announces Sustainable Fuels Challenge

A British Airways 787-9 at LAX, one of the airline's more fuel-efficient aircraft (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

With plans to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2019, British Airways has begun planning events focused on the future of flying, with particular emphasis on sustainable fuels.

In collaboration with Cranfield University, British Airways has created a challenge, which has been dubbed as “BA 2119: Future of Fuels”, with plans to look toward academics across the U.K. to develop a sustainable alternative fuel able to power a commercial aircraft on a long-haul flight, with up to 300 customers and zero net emissions. It is the first time the industry has tasked experts from both aerospace and fuel fields to work in collaboration to tackle this environmental issue.

The winning team will receive $31,000 (£25,000) to help fund further research and a commitment from British Airways to work together to advance the idea. Winners will also be invited to present their idea to the executive team at British Airways and IAG, as well as at industry-leading sustainability events, such as the Aviation Industry Annual Sustainability Summit in Montreal in May 2019, and the IATA Alternative Fuels Symposium in Miami in the following November.

Nominations will be judged by a panel of industry experts based on the potential carbon reduction, innovation, value to the U.K. economy and feasibility of the idea.

The airline is Europe’s first to invest in building a plant which will generate renewable jet fuel from household waste with renewable fuels company Velocys. IAG, British Airways’ parent company, will invest a total of $400 million on alternative sustainable fuel development over the next 20 years – the highest ever financial commitment from an airline group.

The launch event, which took place at the airline’s headquarters, was attended by 15 U.K. universities and also featured talks from industry experts including the Head of Sustainable Fuels at IATA, Robert Boyd, and the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport Baroness Sugg.

“We want the UK to become a global leader in the development and supply of next-generation aviation fuels, cementing our reputation as a centre of excellence for sustainable aviation,” stated Sugg. “This competition will move us another step closer to achieving this vision, balancing growth in aviation with sustainable development that benefits our environment and society.”

British Airways’ Chief Executive and Chairman, Alex Cruz, also said: “The UK can lead the world in the development and production of sustainable alternative fuels, which will play a key role in decarbonising aviation, as well as delivering benefits for employment, exports and waste reduction.”

British Airways Chairman Alex Cruz prepares for centenary next year by looking at the future of fuel (Photo: British Airways)

“As an industry, we need to explore a range of options to reduce our emissions. We’re already working with Velocys to build a plant that produces sustainable transport fuels from household waste that would otherwise go to landfill, but we don’t want to stop there. Some of the best scientific minds in this field are based in the UK and are brilliantly equipped to develop a pathway for the UK to achieve global leadership in the development of sustainable alternative aviation fuels.”

Alongside exploring the future of fuels, British Airways will also be investigating the future of aviation careers and using futurologists to predict the future of the flying experience as part of their Centenary celebrations.

British Airways’ $8.2 billion (£6.5 billion) investment plan for the next five years also covers two other key announcements for next year, including the airline’s new business class seat and the introduction of the Airbus A350 into the airline’s fleet.

Connor Sadler

Connor Sadler

Connor has been in love with flying since the first time he boarded a plane when he was 5 years old. He loves all things aviation, and he hopes to make that his full time career in the future.
Connor Sadler