Low-cost airline Wizz Air has signed a preliminary agreement with Airbus to explore the potential for hydrogen-powered aircraft.
Under the deal, it will collaborate with the manufacturer to understand the impact hydrogen aircraft would have on Wizz Air's network, scheduling, ground bases and at airports.
Wizz Air and Airbus would consider specific aircraft characteristics, such as achievable range and refuelling time, the airline said in a statement on Thursday.
They will also take into account regulation, energy pricing and infrastructure relating to the global hydrogen ecosystem.
"We believe that growth and sustainability are not mutually exclusive, with leading-edge new technology paving the way to more sustainable air travel," said Wizz Air's Johan Eidhagen.
"This ... agreement with Airbus will advance sustainable aviation across the globe through development of ultra-efficient operations and business models of the future."
Airbus is confident it can create a hydrogen-powered plane within the next 15 years, with the industry under increasing pressure to adopt environmentally friendly technology.
Last year, Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury said that 2035 was a “fair and realistic perspective” for a hydrogen plane to be in service.
“We don’t need to change the laws of physics to go with hydrogen," he said. "Hydrogen has an energy density three times that of kerosene – [technically it] is made for aviation.”
In 2020, the aircraft maker revealed three designs, code-named ZEROe, it was considering for a hydrogen-powered aircraft.
Wizz Air currently has a delivery backlog of 411 aircraft from Airbus, including a firm order for 34 A320neo planes, 240 A321neo and 47 A321XLR aircraft, plus an additional order for 15 A321neo and purchase rights for 75 A321neo.
The airline said it operates at the lowest carbon dioxide emissions per passenger kilometre among all competitor airlines and added that "if every airline was as efficient as Wizz Air, European CO2 emissions from aviation would reduce by 34 per cent".
However, in October, the Budapest-headquartered company's chief executive Jozsef Varadi caused a stir by calling carbon offsetting “greenwashing” and “a bit of a joke”.
The airline sought to clarify his comments and said other efforts must be made by the industry to reduce damage to the environment.
“We are not supportive of carbon offsetting as an ultimate solution to reduce our environmental footprint,” a Wizz Air spokeswoman told The National.
“We are more focused on technologies and the most efficient operations that will have a greater impact on tackling carbon emissions.
“Although there are some high-quality, verified offsetting schemes out there – like the choice we offer to our customers – we do not believe this option by itself provides a long-term solution for the industry to achieve net zero.”
About 60 companies in the aviation sector have pledged to increase the share of sustainable aviation fuels in the industry to 10 per cent by 2030.