Reinforcing sustainability of airlines

Chief Operations Officer for Etihad Airways, Richard Hill, explains how the business has continued to make improvements in the fuel efficiency of its fleet, resulting in substantial reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and further reinforcing the sustainability credentials of the airline.

Etihad’s dedicated fuel efficiency team drove numerous initiatives across all operational functions of the business in 2016, saving over 60,000 tonnes of fuel. The 2.5% improvement amounts to nearly 190,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide savings – the equivalent of 1,200 flights between Abu Dhabi and London, or the removal of over 40,000 cars from the road.

Fuel consumption is influenced by many factors such as aircraft and engine type, weight being carried, and the duration of the flight. The airline is working on several key initiatives to optimise efficiency, both with the aircraft itself and through external collaboration with aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus.

Fuel optimisation is a top agenda item for any successful and sustainable airline – for Etihad Airways this is no exception. There have been some encouraging results during 2016 and I’m delighted to see so many of our pilots fully engaged with the programme, as this has ensured additional learning opportunities and the identification of new measures that can deliver greater fuel savings in the years ahead. It’s a vital part of our sustainability efforts and we will continue to look for ways to improve our performance.

Reducing weight can be a vital part of fuel savings, with aircraft such as the A380 having a maximum take-off weight of 575 tonnes – equivalent to 115 African elephants or 218 Toyota Land Cruisers.  The airline has made a conscientious effort to reduce the weight of on-board items.  A ‘weight out’ programme, which resulted in the removal or replacement of on-board items, led to a fuel burn reduction of 1,100 tonnes of fuel per year.

Weather plays a part in influencing aircraft fuel efficiency and Etihad is investing in new technology such as the ‘Boeing Wind Uplink’ scheme to ensure that flight crews have the latest information on weather patterns, allowing them to plan for the optimum fuel performance of their aircraft during flight. Fuel burn performance is negatively impacted by seasonal fog, requiring additional holding fuel to be carried on flights inbound to Abu Dhabi and the airline is now collaborating with the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi to enable more accurate fog predictions.

The environmental benefits are not only substantial but the efficiency improvement in 2016 compared to 2015 exceeds the emissions reduction goal that the industry has set itself, currently a 1.5% efficiency improvement across international aviation. By going beyond this, Etihad Airways is also contributing to carbon neutral growth targets and the ultimate long-term goal: for emissions to be 50% of 2005 levels by 2050. Such efforts show that it is important for businesses to develop cohesive programmes of initiatives that cover all aspects of business and operations while keeping in mind the need for environmental sustainability.

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