In a first for the aviation industry in India, budget carrier SpiceJet operated the country’s first biofuel flight from Dehradun to Delhi on Monday. Using biofuel to operate aircraft is expected to bring the fuel costs by at least 50%, thus allowing Indian carriers to bring down their cost available per kilometre (CASK) substantially.

“SpiceJet is delighted to operate the first biofuel flight in India. This fuel is low cost and helps in significantly reducing carbon emissions. It has the potential to reduce our dependence on traditional aviation fuel by up to 50% on every flight and bring down fares,” said Ajay Singh, chairman and managing director of the airline.

He added, “India is the fastest growing aviation market in the world today and it is our responsibility to grow using clean and sustainable technologies.” The carrier plans to operate 25% of its flights using biofuel, most probably aircraft on short-haul routes, and the rest on traditional jet fuel.

The biofuel for planes has been developed by the CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP) in Dehradun and was recognized by both American Standard Testing Method and Bombardier to be compatible with Pratt & Whitney engines for commercial use. The aircraft used for the test was a Bombardier Q400.

It should be noted that SpiceJet has posted an unexpected loss of `38.06 crore in the June quarter of FY19 due to high fuel prices and weaker rupee among other reasons. The budget airline had posted a net profit of `46.1 crore in the first quarter a year ago.

In its bid to become more fuel efficient, the carrier also placed an order for 205 Boeing 737 Max aircraft that is expected to reduce fuel consumption by about 15%. The advanced technology winglet in these aircraft helps reduce the drag and further enhances fuel efficiency.

“Besides, the new max fleet will leave 40% lesser noise footprint. Complete induction of Max fleet with lightweight titanium seats will bring in savings of 22,000 tonnes of fuel each year. With these initiatives SpiceJet will be much ahead of IATA target of 2020 and 2025,” the airline said in a statement.

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