Business 11/11/2021

Boarding the plane with a clear conscience (at 2.6%)

Vueling and Repsol organise the airline's first flight with a small percentage of "green" fuel

2 min
The Vueling plane that has used non-fossil fuel from Repsol.

BarcelonaIn the board game Taboo, participants have to try to explain a forbidden word without ever mentioning it. In this linguistic labyrinth, no obvious synonyms are allowed either, and the timer is ticking away as the opponent struggles to avoid defeat. In the aviation industry, the word marked in red is kerosene. In the middle of the COP26 summit on climate change, the sector is one of the major targets due to the pollution emitted by the same private jets with which world leaders arrived in Glasgow. And when you can't talk about oil, oxymorons appear.

Vueling tested on Wednesday its first "green flight", a route between Barcelona and Seville operated with an Airbus A320neo and a fuel produced from vegetable oils recovered from the industry. A fuel that reduces CO₂ emissions into the atmosphere by 90% and that has filled... 2.6% of the tank of the aircraft in question. The rest was filled, as on the other flights scheduled for the day, with fossil fuel. Repsol, which produces this fuel at its complex in Tarragona, has an explanation: current production levels and technology only allow them to reach up to 5% SAF in engines (the acronym for "eco petrol" in aviation), explains Javier Sancho, general manager of the energy company's plant in the south of Catalonia.

"Welcome to a very special flight because of our commitment to sustainability", the captain wished the passengers. While they were just settling in, he reminded them that the seats are now lighter to reduce energy consumption, that the crew has replaced the 75 kilos of paper safety manuals with digital versions and that the trucks carrying their luggage are electric. Also, of course, that a clear sky day is expected in the Andalusian capital.

New neighbour in Gavà Mar

In the very first row, in seat 1A, is Marco Sansavini, a man who had never lived in a city with sea. The president of Vueling since September 2020 is now one of the neighbours who hear every few minutes the noise of the planes in Gavà Mar. For him, however, they are more "music" than a nuisance. He arrived at the company at the worst moment in its history and, if IAG's latest forecasts are fulfilled, in 2022 he will again pilot a profitable project. He has another date in mind: in 2030, 10% of the fuel used by his fleet will not be taboo either.

The flight's destination is a summit in Seville on innovation in the tourism sector and, as those involved will justify, during the last 820 kilometres 2.5 tonnes of CO₂ emissions have been reduced. On the return journey of the summoned journalists, a couple of hours later, the counter will be reset to zero.