Qantas plans bio-fuel flight

Qantas plans bio-fuel flight

Qantas will run Australia’s first commercial flight powered by sustainable fuel, CEO Alan Joyce has told an aviation conference in Brisbane today.

“In early 20102, Qantas plans to operate a commercial flight powered by sustainable fuel,” Mr Joyce said.

“This is by no means the first bio-fuel flight, but it will be first flight of its kind in Australia.”

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This year, Qantas signed agreements with two leading manufacturers of sustainable aircraft fuel.

Solazyme is working with algae-based aviation fuels and Solena is experimenting with water-based fuels.

“We want the flight to be an inspiration, a preview of a sustainable future for Australian aviation,” Mr Joyce said.

“This country certainly has the human capital, the finance and the resources to be a global leader in bringing new kinds of aviation fuel to market.”

In his keynote address to the Australian Airports Association Conference in Brisbane this morning, Mr Joyce said Qantas was improving fuel efficiency by 1.5 per cent each year.

“Through a strategy that includes fleet renewal, new technology, fuel optimisation, and reducing resources,” he said.

“While these initiatives can achieve significant improvements, only the production of sustainable aviation fuel on a commercial basis can deliver a generational step in emissions reduction.”

In July this year, Virgin boss Richard Branson also told conference delegates in Brisbane that Virgin was exploring the use of eucalyptus oil from gum trees as an aviation fuel.

Virgin’s plans to have an Australian-based testing facility in place in 2013 and a “commercial” scale production facility in place by 2014.

Mr Joyce’s visit today to Brisbane coincided with a protest at the city’s airport by Qantas workers concerned about airline’s push to use contract workers.

Australia’s top labour tribunal, Fair Work Australia, has ordered the airline to reach an agreement with unions representing its long-haul pilots, licensed aircraft engineers, baggage handlers and catering staff.

Following months of negotiations and employee industrial action, the labour dispute climaxed on October 29, when Qantas announced it would lock out workers and ground its fleet.

The federal government called on Fair Work Australia to step in, which terminated workers’ industrial action. The federal government supported the decision.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association last week launched a challenge in the Federal Court against the ban, but Mr Joyce is confident they won’t win.

“I’m not losing any sleep,” he said.

“I think the government have made themselves very clear that the pilot action, they don’t believe, is going to get through.

“The government believes that their case is robust, that the pilots’ action isn’t going to make any difference.”

However, he said talks would continue with the unions over this weekend before Monday’s deadline of the 21-day “action-free” period set by Fair Work Australia.

And Mr Joyce flagged a fresh focus on the domestic travel sector.

In response to questions this morning, Mr Joyce said Australia’s “fly-in fly-out” market was “top of the radar screen” for Qantas domestic market.

He said 10 new aircraft would be directed to meeting the “fly-in, fly-out” jobs market generated by Queensland’s resources boom.

“In a big capital commitment we will have 10 additional aircraft over the next 18 months to build up our core presence in that sector,” Mr Joyce said.

He said Qantas was now talking to all mining companies in the sector, including industry giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

“We can offer incentives for the fly-in, fly-out business accounts. A lot of those miners are members of the Qantas Club,” he said.

Mr Joyce said it gave Qantas the ability leverage discounted flights for central Queensland’s “fly-in, fly-out market.”

“So we see this as a segment that Qantas is interested in maximising its share in and we are investing very heavily in people and aircraft and resources,” Mr Joyce said.

“We believe it will be extremely profitable as we go forward.

“And it is very much top of our radar screen in the domestic market.”

Qantas is planning to invest $5.3 billion in the next two years, with “75 to 80 per cent” dedicated to fleet upgrades.

On Wednesday, Qantas will mark 91 years of commercial aviation by putting on show one of its 787 Dreamliners at Sydney and Melbourne.

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