World's first 'net-zero' transatlantic flight scheduled for late 2023

Virgin Atlantic will operate the world’s first 'net-zero' transatlantic flight in 2023.

The UK-US flight will be powered by 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), a low-emissions fuel made from waste materials like used cooking oil.

Virgin secured a £1 million UK government contract - announced in May - to fly a Boeing 787 jet from London Heathrow to New York JFK.

The flight will be a key step to "sustainable" aviation, the Department of transport claims.

But what does it mean exactly, and just how green is it really?

What are SAFs?

SAFs are produced from feedstocks like used cooking oil, agricultural waste, and household trash such as packaging, food scraps, and textiles.

SAFs still give off carbon emissions when burnt. However the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that they curb emissions by roughly 70-80 per cent over the course of the “fuel life-cycle.”

This is because they are made from waste products, where the carbon has already been emitted, or from plants that absorb carbon dioxide while they grow.

SAFs are currently mixed - at a 50 per cent ratio - with traditional fossil fuels.

Combined with “greenhouse gas removals, 100 per cent SAF will enable the delivery of a net zero flight”, a government spokesperson said.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps promised to fast-track testing and approvals for SAF technology.

“This trailblazing net zero emissions flight, a world first, will demonstrate the vital role that sustainable aviation fuel can play in decarbonising aviation in line with our ambitious net zero targets,” he said.