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Airlines Are Suspending Flights Because Fuel Is Too Expensive
Jim Sinclair

The price of jet fuel has continued to skyrocket over the last year, currently clocking in at a whopping 36.5 percent higher than at this time last year. In order to cope with the resulting massive increase in operational costs, commercial airlines have been reducing the number of flights run on select routes and are presently considering raising fares.

Just this month several major airlines have announced major cutbacks in flights. American Airlines announced it would be suspending all flights between Chicago and Shanghai during the month of October, as well as reducing the number of flights between Chicago and Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, cutting down from daily service to just three times a week, explicitly citing the current price of jet fuel as a prime reason for these decisions. On the very same day as American’s announcement, Hawaiian Airlines suspended their own flight service between Beijing and Honolulu. It’s extremely evident that even major airlines are scrambling to keep up with rising fuel costs without raising prices for a cost-conscious consumer base.

This is where biofuels come in. In many ways, timing has never been better to begin incorporating renewable jet fuel in earnest in order to combat two of the most major issues in aviation: out-of-control fuel costs and even more out-of-control greenhouse gas emissions. According to the most recent data, the aviation industry is responsible for 2 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions and 10 percent of transport emissions, and these emissions are projected to grow by 10 percent over the next ten years thanks to steady growth in air traffic.

In an effort to combat this issue, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has announced that they aim to achieve carbon-neutral growth in aviation by 2020 and has urged the rest of the industry to buckle down on finding sustainable solutions. However, the aviation industry as a whole remains skeptical. Renewable jet fuel is not exactly cheap either, and since it’s not yet in wide use there is currently a limited supply.

Despite the growing need for an alternative to increasingly pricey and emissions-heavy jet fuel, it has not been smooth sailing for the companies who provide just that. Finland-based biofuel producer and oil refiner Neste, one of the most promising companies in the renewable jet fuel arena, faced recent setbacks in their plans to ramp up biofuels business in the aviation sector. This month a pilot project to replace at least 1 percent of jet fuel used at Geneva, Switzerland airport was scrapped by the Swiss government.

In spite of this speedbump, Neste representatives have said that the company is undeterred and biofuels production will move forward as planned. They are creating new infrastructure at their Singapore biofuels plant to be able to meet demand from the aviation sector when the new line begins to operate in 2022. What’s more, the company recently announced similar projects planned in conjunction with the Dallas airport in the United States as well as American Airlines. Adding even more credibility to their lofty goals, Neste’s renewable jet fuel (made mainly low-quality feedstock--80 percent of its raw materials are sourced from waste and residue inputs such as animal fats) has already been tested by Boeing and Lufthansa. 

Early adoption of renewable jet fuels is not limited to the first world. The Indian government recently announced that they will be incorporating the use of biofuels into their aviation sector. This month marked the test run of the country’s first-ever flight partially powered by renewable jet fuel.

Indeed, it will require an international call to action to make sustainable biofuels a commonplace commodity in the aviation industry. Although some trailblazers like Neste are already gearing up for large-scale production, the global supply remains limited and expensive. It’s a catch-22. Renewable jet fuels will neither become affordable nor accessible in large quantities as long as the aviation industry waits for mass-scale supply without providing any of the demand.

By Haley Zaremba for






Haley Zaremba is a writer and journalist based in Mexico City. She has extensive experience writing and editing environmental features, travel pieces, local news in the Bay Area, and music/culture reviews.

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