By Vanni Gibertini
Qantas, Airbus Join Forces to Develop SAFs in Australia
The global aviation industry is converging on Doha, Qatar for the 78th IATA Annual General Meeting, held in person for the first time, since the 2019 meeting took place in Seoul. Airbus and Qantas have made an announcement of cooperation that will see the Australian flag carrier invest $200 million “to accelerate the establishment of a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry in Australia,” Airbus said, in a statement.
SAFs are seen as the most effective way for the airline industry to achieve its ambitious target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. In this context, Qantas has committed to using 10% of SAF in all its fuel mix by 2030. Still, due to the lack of facilities to produce SAF in Australia, it is forced to source them from overseas, making the process inefficient and expensive.
“The use of SAF is increasing globally as governments and industry work together to find ways to decarbonize the aviation sector,” Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce said at a joint press conference. “Without swift action, Australia is at risk of getting left behind.”
Pratt&Whitney — the engine manufacturer that will power the A220 and A320neo aircraft on order by Qantas — have announced they will invest in the project as well, as part of their commitment to “support greater use of cleaner, alternative fuels including SAF, while continually advancing the efficiency of aircraft propulsion technology.”
Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said, “The agreement we are signing with Qantas today reflects the new level of partnership between our two companies and are firmly shared commitment to act as catalysts of change to ensure a bright future for our industry.”
Qantas and Airbus will provide funding for locally developed and produced SAF and feedstock initiatives that will be evaluated based on their commercial viability and environmental sustainability.
The two companies are also partners in two other projects that aim to set new standards in aviation. “Project Sunrise” is intending to launch the first non-stop flights from the Australian East Coast city of Sydney to London and New York, thus performing the longest commercial flight in the world with a scheduled duration of over 20 hours. After a long evaluation process, Qantas decided to select the Airbus A350-1000 aircraft to operate this flight when it is launched in 2025. This aircraft was preferred to Boeing’s existing 787-9 aircraft or the still-under-development Boeing 777X.
Furthermore, Qantas has chosen Airbus also for its “Project Winton” which is leading a modernization of its fleet for the domestic market. An order for 20 A220-300 and 20 A321 XLR aircraft is intended to progressively replace the current fleet of Boeing 717 and Boeing 737 aircraft to fulfill its domestic needs, with deliveries to take place starting in 2023. The order also includes options for 94 further aircraft to be delivered until 2034.
During the press conference, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce expressed satisfaction at how traffic is recovering after the many months of minimal passenger flows due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Joyce, corporate traffic is back to 90 percent of 2019 levels, and leisure traffic is experiencing a 120 percent surge compared to pre-pandemic levels. International passenger numbers are expected to be completely recovered by the end of 2023.