Ulrika Matsgård, CEO, Braathen Regional Airlines, says diversity and sustainability are essential to business success.
Why did you want to participate in the 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) flight in 2022 and has it helped your sustainability initiatives?
The test flight was a great day, and it was a complete success. As a small company, we can really focus on these important steps with our partners. Bigger airlines need longer lead times to make decisions and prepare but we are determined to be a carbon-neutral airline as soon as possible and this test puts us ahead of the crowd and on the timelines we want to be on.
Of course, the 100% SAF demonstration flight is just one step in a long certification process. But it is a crucial step on the road to net zero carbon emissions and especially our target of being carbon neutral on regional routes by 2030.
We have to create opportunities and we need the future to come quickly in terms of sustainability.
Are you confident that you will meet your 2030 goal for 100% SAF use?
Yes, I believe it is reachable for regional routes. But a lot of work needs to be done and several prerequisites needs to be in place. We have given our international routes a 2045 target.
First, certification for 100% SAF is crucial, and we have begun that process. Second, the supply of SAF must increase, especially in local markets. We have to make sure that we have enough SAF available. And third, we need a better price. Obviously, that is connected to the second point, but SAF is never going to be cheap. Ultimately, the industry and its customers need to agree on the revenue model if SAF is three to four times more expensive than Jet A1.
How should governments support SAF production?
There are no easy options and it’s important we keep an open mind about incentives and mandates. In Sweden, for example, our aviation tax should take into account our carbon footprint. It doesn’t do that at the moment, but surely as we reduce our emissions, the tax should decrease? That would help us spend money on SAF, so everybody wins, and most especially the environment benefits.
Governments must make it easier for SAF initiatives to get financing and promote SAF production but there are a lot of tough questions. There is no point mandating something we don’t have but governments can help increase demand as well as supply. Because where there is demand, supply usually follows.
Will carbon offsets form part of your sustainability strategy?
We have been offering carbon offsetting and use it a company level as well, but we are moving on from them. Our focus now will be on carbon capture, and we are exploring how we can invest in that.
But sustainability is about so much more than reducing carbon. There are a multitude of areas where we have sustainability goals. Our strategy is based on the three pillars of people, planet, and profits. We need to take care of all three aspects to grow sustainably.
How can we improve diversity in aviation?
Diversity is so important to any business. At Braathens Regional Airlines we are, more or less, gender equal. About 50% of our top management are female and that’s true of our company as a whole as well.
There are areas—pilots and engineers are the obvious ones—that are still male dominated, but we are working on that.
If you have a diverse workforce, then your strategies and perspectives have a better balance. That translates into better business results. I foresee that as our international business grow, we will attract more people with various background and cultures.
Is it important to have role models?
Absolutely. Visibility and communication are vital. We need to have good examples and show what is possible. Role models help our outreach and accelerate the diversity process. They can talk with younger people, share their experience, and inspire them.
It is hard to forge a career without role models, though it is possible. Fortunately, it is different now to even a few years ago and I am positive about the future for women in aviation. But we can’t rest. Like sustainability, we have to work on diversity every day. We have to ensure young women keep coming through with the right skills to seize the opportunities available. We have to dare them to take on new challenges and show that it is possible to succeed.
What do you want the airline to achieve in the near term?
When we started up again after the pandemic, we didn’t know what to expect or what the market would look like. We just concentrated on sustainably serving demand where we found it. That’s how we started our charter flight operations, for example.
It has been small steps so far, but it is great to be a part of the aviation story. The industry has so many opportunities and challenges, it is really exciting. Many areas will be completely transformed in the coming years.
We will need to empower our people to do that. I hope that young talent and especially women want to be a part of our journey.