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Canada claimed a small piece of aviation history Tuesday with the arrival of flight AF342 in Montreal from Paris, marking the first Air France-KLM long-haul flight using sustainable aviation fuel – a 16 percent blend of petroleum mixed with a synthetic jet fuel derived from waste cooking oils.

The company said the move toward sustainable aviation fuel or SAF is to support the creation of an industry that guarantees increasingly eco-responsible air transport.

It’s part of efforts by the industry worldwide to experiment with alternative fuels as regulators and governments tighten emissions rules for the coming decades. Other airlines and plane-makers are also experimenting with using varying levels of biofuels or different kinds of sustainable fuel.

Air France-KLM unveiled the initiative at an event by the tarmac at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris attended by key aviation figures including Air France-KLM chief executive Benjamin Smith, Total oil company CEO Patrick Pouyanne, and Airbus President Guillaume Faury.

Airline execs said that no modifications to storage and distribution infrastructure, aircraft or engines are required to incorporate the biofuels, whose gradual introduction worldwide should significantly reduce CO2 emissions from air transportation, in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The Montreal flight was said to have avoided the emission of 20 tons of CO2.

The Canadian office for Air France-KLM called the event a “great day of pride for us in Canada,” noting that flight 342 is part of Air France’s regular schedule between Paris and Montreal and that the city, having been served for more than 70 years by the carrier, is one of the most important gateways in the Air France network. Also that Air France KLM Canada is the first office to have integrated a Sustainable Development Manager into its team dedicated to the Group’s commitment to reducing the environmental impact of its activity and to offering its customers responsible travel.

Montreal is also home to the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which operates within the framework of CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation), whose global strategy to offset and reduce aviation emissions supports the use of sustainable fuels.

Steve Csonka, executive director of the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, welcomed the move, calling SAF “critical” in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions for the whole jet-powered aviation industry.

It will, he said, “represent the majority of the CO2 emissions reductions achievable by the industry over the next several decades” and “is being supported by incentivizing policy in the US.”

Andrew Murphy of Brussels-based environmental advocacy group Transport and Environment said that “it’s good that they’re experimenting, it’s important that the industry is experimenting” with this as the world appears to be coming out of the pandemic and travel resumes.

Air France-KLM claimed to make the first regular flight with synthetic sustainable aviation fuel in February, from Amsterdam to Madrid.

First published at Travel Industry Today

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