The first airline to operate a zero-emission commercial flight from one of Manchester Airports Group airports will win five years’ free landing fees.

The incentive, worth £1.3 million at today’s prices, came as MAG made a commitment to become a net zero carbon business by 2038.

The target is 12 years ahead of the UK’s aviation industry’s ambition to become net zero carbon by 2050. 

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 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 a range of measures needed to help the UK reach its net zero 2050 target, including modernising airspace, sustainable aviation fuels, smart flight operations and new aircraft technology.

The initiative came as the government’s Jet Zero Council, of which MAG is a founding member, prepares to meet for a second time in the coming days. 

Chief executive Charlie Cornish said: “We have always been ambitious in our approach to sustainability. 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.”