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Lufthansa to be first to use biofuel for daily flights

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Steve Chiotakis: In Germany today, air travel won’t be quite as polluting. Lufthansa’s become the first commercial airline to use biofuel for daily flights.

From the Sustainability Desk, Marketplace’s Eve Troeh reports on what that means for the future of green travel.

Eve Troeh: To be clear, this is an experiment. Biofuel-powered jets won’t criss-cross the world anytime soon. Lufthansa’s using a bio-blend on one short route: Hamburg to Frankfurt. Eight flights a day for six months.

Lots of airlines have done test flights that show biofuels work and they’re safe. Martin Riechen at Lufthansa says daily flights will answer other questions.

Martin Riechen: Is it difficult to get the fuel? What is the technical impact of the engines? And the price of biofuel at the end will also determine the success of it.

The bio-blend costs more than double the price of regular jet fuel. Lufthansa says it’s made from sources that don’t compete with food crops. The German government chipped in about a third of the project’s $10 million price tag.

Steve Lott is with the Air Transport Association. He says the jump from testing to daily flights has gone faster than expected.

Steve Lott: If you asked somebody five years ago would we have commercial flights operating every day with biofuels, I don’t think anybody would have believed it.

Helane Becker: It’s really huge.

Helane Becker follows the travel industry for investment bank Dahlman Rose. She says the airlines have good reason to switch to biofuels as fast as they can. Those prices are going down, while the price of traditional jet fuel is going up.

Becker: It’s the biggest percentage of total operating expenses, number one. And number two, it’s the most volatile and unpredictable.

She says a steady supply of biofuel, from renewable sources, would help airlines better predict their costs. And that could mean less wild swings in price every time you buy a plane ticket.

I’m Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

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