Virgin airlines look to form biofuel partnership at LAX

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Airlines in the Virgin Group are collaborating to see if they could develop and share aviation biofuels at their common port of Los Angeles International airport.

The airlines - V Australia, Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic - have significant stage length operations at Los Angeles that would permit them to maximise bio-derived jet fuel deployment at a single, shared location.

V Australia and Virgin Atlantic each currently operates 14 weekly return flights up to 6,883nm and 4,741nm long, respectively. Virgin America's long-haul network currently comprises 93 weekly trans-continental flights between 1,927nm and 2,269nm, according to schedules in Innovata.

"We're working with the other Virgin airlines - Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic - to look at what we can do in LA," said David White, the sustainability and climate change manager for Virgin Australia, which includes long-haul affiliate V Australia.

"That's one synergy which we're concentrating on because we're all flying into LA. We're checking out 'What can we do there?'"

There is already intra-airline cooperation in North America for the supply of biofuels. In 2009 fourteen carriers and alternative fuel supplier AltAir signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly purchase biofuels from a Washington state refinery for use at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and other locations through the existing pipeline system.

That is one option for the Virgin Group airlines, White said, adding discussions were still preliminary. He said Virgin Australia would be open to a similar arrangement in Australia with Qantas, but more collaboration would be necessary.

"It would be great to do that," White said. "But we have to work together as a group and we have to have shared outcomes. It's something we have to work on."

Air New Zealand, Boeing, Qantas, and Virgin Australia this week released a report they helped commission and develop about the commercialisation of aviation biofuels in their region.