Doha, QATAR – Qatar Airways’ use of natural gas to fuel a commercial flight from London Gatwick to Doha last month is a leading example of how airlines must take the initiative and push for less reliance on traditional aviation fuel, participants at the Sky Blue –The Arab Aviation Summit have concluded.
Panellists and speakers at the summit, held this week in Doha, were unanimous in their calls urging the speedy development and implementation of alternatives such as gas-to-liquids aviation fuel and third-generation bio-fuels.
With some analysts forecasting US$150 - US$200 for the price of a barrel of oil within the next three years, and aviation fuel close to US$250 a barrel, the importance of Qatar Airways' recent use of a natural gas alternative cannot be underestimated and their initiative is an important step for the industry, participants at the summit heard.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said that the airline was committed to developing cleaner fuels that emit less carbon into the atmosphere and were also commercially viable for airlines.
“Qatar Airways, with its partners, is leading the aviation industry in developing gas-to-liquids technology for use in commercial aircraft. The fuel’s higher mass and energy content compared with current aviation fuel means that for the same amount of fuel, the aircraft can fly further. This has tangible benefits for the environment and for the airline.
“While the full benefits are still being studied, Qatar Airways is confident that we are heading in the right direction. The airline has a commitment to reducing its impact on the environment and we’re keeping our fleet age as young as possible, ordering the most fuel-efficient, most environmentally friendly aircraft available.
“It is only a matter of time before we must implement alternative fuel solutions. Airlines will not be able to survive with astronomical oil prices, and passing on the cost to passengers will make air travel too expensive,” said Al Baker.
The two-day summit held in Doha was a prelude for Arab air carriers to the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen taking place in December, an international discussion on how to combat the environmental impacts caused by human development. At the conference, a new framework for combating climate change is expected to be agreed upon, one that will supersede the Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997, and which expires in 2012.
Participants at the Arab Aviation Summit noted that though aviation will only be a small component in the overall discussions, the erroneous global perception that the industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gases was a continuing challenge that needed to be faced and overcome.
The key issue among discussions was the need for the aviation industry to present a unified front in Copenhagen and highlight the efforts made to date by the aviation sector to reduce its overall carbon footprint and establish workable solutions to curb carbon emissions growth, as well as highlight its future plans to make further reductions.
A lack of support from industry bodies such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in challenging the introduction of policies such as the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EUETS) continued to hinder the industry, said Al Baker.
Qatar Airways’ Economy Class has been voted Best in the World in the annual Skytrax passenger survey, in which more than 16 million travellers were polled. Ranked Five Star for service and excellence by Skytrax, the independent aviation industry monitoring agency also voted Qatar Airways’ cabin crew Best in the Middle East for the seventh year running in 2009 and Best Airline in the Middle East for the fourth consecutive year. For more information, log onto www.qatarairways.com
Qatar Airways will operate a fleet of 120 aircraft by 2013 – almost double the existing size. Qatar Airways has ordered 80 Airbus A350s, 24 Airbus A320 Family of aircraft, 60 Boeing 787s and 32 Boeing 777s, with deliveries of the latter having started in November 2007. The airline has aircraft orders for more than 220 jets worth over US$40 billion and is one of the customers of the twin-deck Airbus A380 ‘super jumbos’ with five on order and scheduled for delivery from 2012, by which time the New Doha International Airport would have opened. For more information, visit www.ndiaproject.com
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