Of course the airline isn't making the shift purely out of the goodness of their corporate hearts. Qatar has one of the world's largest gas reserves so presumably this is actually cheaper for them. Even if it isn't cheaper for the company itself right now, Qatar as a country would be in a huge position to benefit if the rest of the airline industry began to follow Qatar Airways' lead.
An industry shift would have other consequences and benefits, some of which are pretty easy to see and some of which are a little muddier. It's tough to know what would happen to ticket prices. The only redeeming feature of oil is that it's (relatively) cheap energy. That's why we keep using it instead of, say, natural gas. If some airlines switched to more expensive fuel optionsand if some customers were willing to pay more to avoid harming the environment - it might raise ticket prices for everyone.
On the other hand airports would almost instantly be cleaner and less environmentally toxic, as would air travel in the broader sense. So while it's unlikely that major US airlines will rush to convert their engines to natural gas, here's hoping that this milestone at least gets some of them thinking in new directions.
[Photo: Mulag / WikiCommons]
· Qatar Airways first to fly with natural gas jet fuel [WA Today]
· Qatar Airways Coverage [Jaunted]
· Green Travel Coverage [Jaunted]