Kenya Airways (KQ) has been awarded the Best Innovation and the Most Impactful Breakthrough awards for being the first African carrier to pioneer use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) from Africa to Europe.
The awards were presented at the 2023 Sustainable Flight Challenge Awards ceremony held at Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, USA on 3rd October 2023.
This recognition follows the successful execution of a long-haul flight by KQ from Nairobi to Amsterdam that piloted SAF during the Sustainable Flight Challenge 2023, a friendly competition initiative by the SkyTeam Alliance.
Kenya Airways became the first African airline to fly a long-haul commercial flight from Africa to Europe using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).
According to a technical analysis done at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), SAF has the greatest potential to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 80%.
It can be produced from a number of sources (feedstock) including waste oil and fats, green and municipal waste and non-food crops. It can also be produced synthetically via a process that captures carbon directly from the air.
The fuel is ‘sustainable’ because the raw feedstock does not compete with food crops or water supplies, or is responsible for forest degradation. Whereas fossil fuels add to the overall level of CO2 by emitting carbon that had been previously locked away, SAF recycles the CO2 which has been absorbed by the biomass used in the feedstock during the course of its life.
Allan Kilavuka, Group Managing Director and CEO of Kenya Airways, stated, “This ‘Best Innovation’ award is an achievement that highlights the beginning of our commitment to pioneering sustainable aviation practices, taking the lead in innovation, and driving change within our industry.”
22 airlines, comprising of SkyTeam members and ‘friends and family’ airlines, participated in The Sustainable Flight Challenge 2023 and collectively operated 72 flights. Over 350 innovative ideas were submitted for industry-wide adoption.
Notably, this year’s challenge led to an average 19% reduction in CO2 intensity compared to the same flights operated in the previous month. Participants in the 2023 challenge generated hundreds of ideas to help drive a more responsible future for aviation—solutions that can be shared across the industry.
Launched in 2022, the Sustainable Flight Challenge fosters competition to stimulate innovations aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of air travel.
During the awards ceremony, Patrick Roux, CEO of SkyTeam Alliance, commended Kenya Airways, stating, “We congratulate Kenya Airways on their remarkable achievement in spearheading sustainable aviation practices. This represents a significant advancement in the industry’s environmental initiatives and underscores Kenya Airways’ dedication to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.”
Other winners included KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, recognized for their impressive adoption of sustainable solutions; Air France, acknowledged for their outstanding collaboration through the OLGA (Holistic Green Airport) project; and China Eastern, commended for their substantial emissions reduction through increased payload fractions.