Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has launched a prize for the first airline to operate a zero-emission commercial flight from one of its airports. The announcement came as the Group published its annual CSR Report and made a landmark commitment to become a net zero carbon business by 2038 – 12 years ahead of the UK’s aviation industry target to become net zero carbon by 2050.
The contest will see the successful carrier win five years’ free landing fees, worth up to £1.3 million (€1.5m) at today’s prices.
Airlines will be given free rein in their choice of low-emission technology to win the prize, including electric and hydrogen technology. It comes after global manufacturer Airbus last month revealed three concept ‘ZEROe’ hydrogen powered commercial aircraft, which could carry up to 200 passengers from the UK across Europe from 2035. The first commercial-grade six-seater aircraft powered by a hydrogen fuel cell was also showcased at Cranfield University in September.
Sustainable Aviation, the UK aviation industry’s sustainability group, has forecast that the sector can expect to see the first zero emission regional or short-haul flight in around 10-15 years’ time. MAG’s initiative will complement the full range of measures needed to help the UK reach its Net Zero 2050 target, including modernising UK airspace, sustainable aviation fuels, smart flight operations and new aircraft technology.
“At MAG, we have always been ambitious in our approach to sustainability,” says Charlie Cornish, CEO Manchester Airports Group. “We were the first airport operator in the UK to reach carbon neutrality and we were delighted to join the government’s Jet Zero Council as a founding member earlier this year. This competition is the next step in that journey, as we work towards reaching net zero ourselves by 2038 and supporting all of UK aviation to get there by 2050. While we push through the significant challenges that coronavirus has placed on our industry, we must keep looking to the future and the exciting innovations that will be critical for the future of flying.”
MAG’s latest annual CSR Report highlights the successful work completed over the last 12 months, and over the last five years of its 2015-2020 sustainability strategy. Since 2015, MAG has become the first carbon neutral airport operator in the UK and has seen a 12% reduction is carbon emissions. MAG has also over the last five years supported the education of over 120,000 young people and provided nearly £4 million (€4.5m) in community, charity and arts funding.
This year, MAG has supported its local communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 44,000 items donated to local food charities, over £100,000 (€110,000) of grant funding provided to 54 organisations, and over 6,500 hours of volunteering from MAG colleagues.
“When our airports prosper our communities around them prosper, but in tougher times we can help support each other too,” says Neil Robinson, CSR and Airspace Change Director, Manchester Airports Group. “We have a long history of working very closely in our local communities and, for us, sustainability means more than just reducing carbon, it means becoming a business that has longstanding, sustainable relationships with our environment, people and communities at all levels. In striving to be the best possible neighbour, we also continuously focus on improving employment opportunities – and that means ensuring we have the right support on offer at our airports to help people find work, including airport academies, Further Education colleges and our ‘Aerozones’ that introduce schoolchildren to aviation. Having this framework in place will be even more important as we recover from COVID-19. This year’s annual CSR Report demonstrates another great year of achievement and I look forward to delivering on our ambitious new five-year strategy.”