The biofuels blend on the Virgin flight contained 20 percent neat biofuel and 80 percent conventional jet fuel. Virgin founder Richard Branson said tests had shown it was possible to fly with a 40 percent blend.
"Today marks a vital breakthrough for the whole airline industry," Branson told reporters in a hangar at Heathrow airport prior to the flight's departure.
Environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth said biofuels were a distraction in the fight to cut carbon dioxide emissions, and that related carbon savings would be negated by increased airline travel.
CNN Tech: Virgin : Airline uses Biofuel
British billionaire Branson said it was unlikely the nut of the wild growing babassu palm would play a key role as airlines turn to renewable fuel sources to cut the industry's greenhouse gas emissions.
"We did not want to use biofuels such as corn oil which were competing with staple food sources," he said, adding he believed algae produced in places like sewage treatment farms were the most likely future source of renewable fuel for the airline industry.