Sustainable Aviation Fuel: London Heathrow Embarks on Second Year of Popular Incentive Scheme

In 2022, Heathrow Airport (LHR) became the first to launch a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) incentive program designed to cover up to 50% of the fuel cost for airlines, making it more affordable and attractive to investors.

Due to the success of the scheme, Heathrow now aims to triple the percentage of SAF used at the airport from 0.5% to 1.5% by the end of 2023. If the airport is successful in achieving its aims, it will become one of the world’s largest users of SAF.

The airport has launched a fund of £38 million to power the scheme, hoping to encourage more airlines to fly their aircraft using greener alternatives to kerosene fuel. Current participants in the scheme include International Airlines Group “IAG”, Virgin Atlantic, Air France, United Airlines, KLM Airlines, and JetBlue.

Aircraft flying into Heathrow Airport
Heathrow has committed to progressively increasing the amount of SAF used across the airport © Heathrow Airport Limited.

A Little on Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Sustainable aviation fuel is an umbrella term that refers to fuel that is derived from sustainable sources, or ‘feedstock’, such as used cooking oil and agricultural waste. Relative to traditional jet fuel, SAF produces significantly less harmful emissions across the entirety of its life cycle, with some claims describing reductions of up to 70%.

Many across the aviation industry have put their faith in SAF as a viable way to reach the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Not only does it perform at operationally equivalent levels to traditional JetA1 fuel, but the SAF used throughout LHR is also a ‘drop-in’ solution which can be blended directly into the existing fuel infrastructure at the airport and is fully compatible with existing aircraft.

Heathrow Urges Aviation Industry To Go Green

Despite the ongoing success of Heathrow’s scheme, the airport has expressed fears that without support from the UK government, investors in SAF production may be hesitant to commit, and emission reduction targets will fail.

Mr Holland-Kaye, Heathrow CEO
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow CEO, wants the government to take urgent action to support SAF production © Heathrow Airports Limited.

Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, has therefore called on the government to advance the production of SAF, as the high costs associated with the fuel combined with low production rates hinder its commercial viability. Many airlines have hesitated to sign significant long-term supply contracts for these reasons.

“Sustainable aviation fuel is not just about protecting the benefits of aviation in a net zero world – it’s about economic opportunity, creating jobs here in the UK and securing the country’s future energy supplies. Heathrow has led the way on decarbonising aviation by incentivising airlines to use SAF, and Team Heathrow is now probably the biggest user of SAF in the world. But it is currently all imported. If Britain really wants to compete with the scale of ambition and the credible action seen from the US and Europe, supportive Government policy is needed, and it is needed now.”


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Sophie Baker
Sophie Baker
Aviation Reporter - A recent graduate in English Literature, Sophie is an experienced and skilled reporter, with an interest in the world of travel and aviation. She joined the team in 2023, providing an insight into the latest developments in the industry