Air France Carries Out First French Sustainable Aviation Fuel Flight

On Tuesday, Air France, Airbus, energy company Total, and airport operator Groupe ADP joined forces to send off the first long-haul flight powered by biofuel produced in France. The group says the flight, operated by the airline’s newest A350, was a result of a shared ambition to decarbonize aviation and develop a local sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) supply chain.

Air France A350
On Tuesday, Air France operated an A350 powered by locally produced SAF on a transatlantic flight from CDG to YUL. Photo: Air France

Biofuel blend of 16%, all electric GSE

Flight AF342 took off from Paris CDG at 15:40 and landed on the other side of the Atlantic in Montreal a little under seven hours later. It was powered by a 16% SAF blend, which Air France says cut CO2 emissions by 20 tons. In addition, the aircraft was serviced by the first 100% all-electric refueling truck, developed in France, and by all-electric ground support equipment.

French legislation is calling for all flights originating in the country to use at least 1% SAFs from 2022. Benjamin Smith, Air France-KLM CEO, said in a statement,

“France currently has the opportunity to position itself as a leader in the production and use of sustainable fuels, and we are doing everything possible to contribute to this with our partners. Supporting the emergence of an economically viable French aviation biofuel sector for all the parties involved is a strategic priority for the country and the group.”

He further added that along with fleet renewal, SAFs constitute the Air France-KLM Group’s main instrument to reach its sustainability goal of cutting CO2 emissions per passenger/km in half by 2030.

Air France A350 SAF flight
The launch of biofuel operations requires no additional infrastructure. Photo: Air France

Youngest A350 on a diplomatic mission

The flight was operated by Air France’s newest Airbus A350-900, the ninth out of 38 on order. Registered as F-HTYI, it was delivered from the manufacturer’s facilities in Toulouse to the airline’s hub at CDG on April 30th. This was not its first transatlantic trip, however, as the two-month-old widebody has been busy operating flights from Paris to São Paulo, Atlanta, and Montreal, as well as routes to Cairo, Mumbai, and Monrovia.

The choice of destination for the sustainability-focused flight is no coincidence. Montreal is the permanent seat of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the engineering UN body behind the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).


Total’s biofuels are produced from used cooking oil at a biorefinery facility in La Méde in the south of France and a factory near Le Havre on the Atlantic coast northwest of Paris. Production only launched in March last year as part of the energy company’s strategy for decarbonizing the transportation industry.

Airbus SAF
Airbus is hoping to certify aircraft to fly on 100% SAF. Photo: Airbus

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Will we see 100% SAF in the future?

Today, 50% of Airbus aircraft can be operated on a biofuel blend without modification or operational impact. However, the manufacturer is currently conducting a series of tests to certify aircraft to fly on 100% SAF in the coming decades. Whether or not supply will have caught up by then is another matter. Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO, shared the following after Tuesday’s take-off,

“Sustainable fuels are a major lever for achieving our objectives of decarbonizing the aviation sector, and Airbus supports all initiatives that contribute to their development and use on commercial flights. Coordinated action by all stakeholders is needed to increase the share of these sustainable fuels.”

Do you think SAFs will be able to scale up sufficiently to make them financially viable within the next decade? Will government mandates help? What else could be done to incentivize investments and increase supply?