Genuine momentum has built up behind the development of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) over the past two years, in the view of KLM chief executive Pieter Elbers, reflecting a growing focus on the issue among key stakeholders.

Speaking during the Airlines 2021 event in London on 22 November, Elbers notes that despite the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the air travel industry, “there have been so many commitments from airlines” in recent years, which has created “a lot of dynamics and energy”.

Previously, SAF was a “chicken and egg” issue, Elbers explains, with high prices meaning there was little uptake and therefore little incentive for suppliers or users to push for higher useage.


Source: Lewis Harper/FlightGlobal

Elbers says SAF momentum is building

Today, even though “if you were to buy all the SAF in the world” it would not be enough to supply one airline, “momentum is picking up”, Elbers says, “which is very encouraging for the industry”.

He cites recent announcements of SAF investments by the UK and USA governments as evidence of a focus on the issue among policymakers.

He adds, however, that the SAF agenda needs to be driven across all markets, and not just a select few, for it take make the necessary difference to airline carbon footprints.

The next ICAO assembly will be crucial in that regard, Elbers says.