Heathrow Will Nix Landing Fees for First Electric Flight

CC BY 2.0. Pascal

CEO John Holland-Kaye expects to be taken up on this offer within the next 12 years.

When Norway announced that all short-haul flights from the country would be electric by 2040, I was surprised. We had heard murmurings of commercial electric air travel for sure, but to move an entire country's short-haul flights to zero emissions seemed a little too good to be true.

Still, developments in electric aviation—or at least developments in the push for electric aviation—just keep on coming.

The latest is an announcement by Heathrow Airport, reported on by Simon Calder over at The Independent, that the airport will waive landing fees for the first commercial electric flight to land there. These fees cost up to £1m (US$1.25m) a year, so it's not an insignificant incentive for carriers to get their skates on and start innovating.

It should be noted, of course, that Heathrow has been facing fierce criticism for its expansion and theaddition of a contentious third runway. It could be argued that any talk of electric flights more than a decade from now (CEO John Holland-Kaye predicted the first landing will take place within 12 years) is simply a means to assuage criticism of the emissions that will be spewed between now and then, with no guarantee that the electric aviation vision will actually (sorry!) take off.

Those criticisms are fair. And skepticism is warranted. But as the fence sitter that I am, I have a hard time imagining a future where aviation suddenly goes away. And certainly I have a hard time imagining the aviation industry voluntarily deciding to go away. So I, for one, am very happy for Heathrow to work on encouraging electric planes—alongside its other sustainability efforts like restoring peatlands as a carbon offset—while others work on stopping cheap air travel all together.

Which strategy prevails remains to be seen, but we need progress on all fronts if we're going to get this climate change thing tamed.