According to experts, replacing the current kerosene produced from oil with a new fuel derived from municipal and other waste, or fuels made from oily plants or algae, will make travel more expensive. But it should be a tribute to the fact that even air transport will contribute to reducing emissions even in a situation where its permanent expansion is expected.
The International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Post-Covid Forecast in a high-traffic scenario estimates passenger traffic in Europe to grow by up to 3.1 percent per year and freight traffic by up to 2.4 percent per year by 2050. In addition, emissions from aviation have been rising with the exception of the pandemic since 1990, and the trend of increasing emissions could resume, according to an October 18 EU document on ensuring a level playing field for sustainable aviation.
However, the same regulation states that the obligations will apply to airports that handled more than 800,000 passengers or more than one hundred thousand tons of cargo in the previous period. “The reason for setting the threshold value for the volume of annual air transport of passengers and costs is to prevent traffic at small airports from being burdened with disproportionate requirements,” explains expert on European and aviation law Tomáš Kočař from the law firm KPMG Legal.
Specifically, it is mainly about ensuring that small airports do not have to simultaneously build a system of storage tanks for sustainable fuel (SAF) alongside conventional fuel tanks.
But the fact is that, with the exception of Václav Havel Airport in Prague, which before covid was close to the eighteen million mark of transported passengers and now expects a further increase to almost 14 million, all other regional airports will fulfill the parameters of small airports with a margin.
For example, Brno Airport reported an increase in the number of passengers to 472,000 passengers last year. České Budějovice South Bohemian Airport, which joined the club of regional airports with international operations this year, handles roughly ten thousand passengers.
It is significantly closer to the established limit of the airport in Ostrava, mainly due to its new focus on cargo transport. Last month in Ostrava, they opened a new terminal called Cargo 2, which will allow the maximum volume of transported goods to be increased by 36,000 tons. At the same time, he expects to handle roughly 16,000 tons of air cargo this year.
Three times more expensive than kerosene
Sustainable aviation fuels have already passed certification and the first harsh tests. The problem is mainly their higher price. “So far, SAF fuel is very scarce in our region and also very expensive,” said Vladimíra Dufková, the spokeswoman for the largest company Smartwings. Compared to conventional fuel, sustainable fuel is three to four times more expensive.
This will not be such a problem, at least in the first years, because from 2025 only two percent of this fuel must be mixed. But gradually the volume will grow. Technically, it is already possible to fly only on sustainable fuel. At the end of November, a test flight across the Atlantic is to take place exclusively on this fuel, and thus verify its use even on long flights.
Currently, it is already used to drive aircraft engines not only as part of experiments, but only as part of a mixture with traditional kerosene, but in very small volumes. In 2021, according to the ČTK agency, the SAF participated in the supply of aviation fuel in a volume of 0.5 percent.
In addition to airports, small airlines should also get relief. Specifically, the European regulation talks about airlines that handle up to five hundred flights to the EU annually. “The regulation does not aim to burden airlines (aircraft operators, note ed.), which account for a very small number of departures from airports located on the territory of the EU,” said Kočař, adding that the number of flights does not include flights to small airports.
However, unlike airports, the bar for airlines, after reaching which the obligation starts to apply, is set much lower. In the Czech environment, it is also fulfilled by the currently significantly reduced Czech Airlines, which also belongs to the Smartwings holding. The carrier, which recently celebrated its centenary and is currently undergoing a remedial downsizing process, currently operates two aircraft.