Latest news and insights from various sources relating to UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Virgin Atlantic sees impressive gains in fuel efficiency and an 8% fall in emissions as a result of fleet changes

Tue 27 Jun 2017 – Following a slowdown in the overall fuel efficiency of its fleet in 2015, Virgin Atlantic Airways has rebounded with an impressive 8 per cent annual improvement last year, according to the airline’s latest Sustainability Report 2017. This is largely down to the positive impact of Boeing 787 aircraft entering the fleet in 2016, improved passenger load factors and other operational gains. Total CO2e aircraft emissions fell from 4.43 million tonnes in 2015 to 4.08 million tonnes in 2016, from a high of 5.22 million tonnes in 2007 when Virgin Atlantic set a target to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 per cent per revenue tonne-kilometre (RTK) by 2020. The 22 per cent reduction since 2007 is matched by a 17 per cent fall in CO2 per RTK and a 22 per cent drop in CO2 per passenger km over the past 10 years. This, says the airline, puts it well ahead of the industry’s annual fuel efficiency improvement target for the period up to 2020.

Airline fuel efficiency gains not keeping pace with rapid growth in passenger traffic and emissions, finds studies

ICCT and atmosfair found Alaska Airlines to be the most fuel efficient US carrier

Wed 20 Dec 2017 – Fuel efficiency gains and fleet modernisation have failed to keep pace with overall growth in aircraft carbon emissions as a result of the rapid increase in air passenger travel, finds two reports monitoring airline performance. In its annual ranking of the carbon efficiency of 200 of the world’s largest airlines that are responsible for 92 per cent of worldwide air traffic, German organisation atmosfair says global CO2 emissions increased by 4 per cent in the past year, while the kilometres flown rose by almost 7 per cent. It says airlines are only modernising their fleets at a slow pace with just 1 per cent of aircraft worldwide classified as highly fuel efficient. A study by US NGO the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found a sharp increase in passenger traffic drove up both profits and fuel consumption on US domestic airline operations between 2014 and 2016.

Atmosfair says even the best performing airline fleets emit on average 20% more CO2 per kilometre than the most fuel efficient planes operating at full capacity such as the Airbus A350-900 or Boeing 787-9. A fleet with only a medium level of efficiency in technology and operations releases twice as much carbon than the most fuel efficient aircraft. These new aircraft models, which can achieve consumption values of less than 3.5 litres of kerosene per 100 passengers, have raised the bar considerably in terms of carbon efficiency, it says.

Airlines that have not updated their fleets or have only made small improvements have lost ground in its latest 2017 ranking, notes atmosfair. The Atmosfair Airline Index is based on the CO2 emissions of an airline per passenger-kilometre flown on all routes, and calculated using the aircraft type, engines, use of winglets and seating and freight capacity, as well as occupancy. The efficiency index is intended to be used by travellers to compare airlines when planning their flight.

The highest ranking airlines in the index will therefore be those with the most modern fleets with high seating densities and high passenger and cargo loads. Differences among airlines on the same route can be substantial, says atmosfair, with fuel consumption per passenger-kilometre possibly being twice as high for one airline than for another.

UK charter airline TUI Airways (formerly Thomson Airways) once again topped the index, reaching 80% of the technically achievable optimum. Its German counterpart TUIFly ranked third, with regional carrier China West Air in second place in the overall ranking.

European and Chinese airlines performed well, says atmosfair, with South America’s LATAM ranked as the best international net carriers as a result of its modern fleet and high rate of occupancy. US carriers performed less well overall with only three – Alaska, Delta and United – making it into the top 50 airlines in the world.

For the 2015-2016 period, Alaska Airlines was also ranked by ICCT as the most fuel efficient on US domestic operations for the seventh year in a row, while the gap between it and the least efficient carrier, Virgin America, in 2016 widened slightly to 26%.

Between 2014 and 2016, ICCT calculates overall passenger-kilometres on US domestic operations rose by 10%, outstripping a 3% overall improvement in fuel efficiency, causing fuel use and CO2 emissions to jump by 7%.

“Industry-wide, demand is swamping energy efficiency improvements and emissions are spiking as a result,” said ICCT’s Naya Olmer, lead author of the study. Since 2012, the average profit margin for US domestic carriers has increased nearly six-fold thanks to lower fuel prices and higher ancillary fees, finds ICCT, and those carriers saved around $17 billion in fuel costs last year, about 20% of which was passed on to passengers in lower fares.

Around 30% of global CO2 emissions are attributable to US aircraft and the FAA projects aviation activity to increase 2-3% annually through to 2037.

“With airline profits surging, we need to explore environmental and consumer protection if the US is going to cap aviation carbon emissions from 2020, as it has committed to do,” commented Dan Rutherford, ICCT’s aviation Program Director and co-author of the study.

Said Dietrich Brockhagen, CEO of atmosfair: “Our findings show that aviation worldwide is not on track to meet the 1.5 degree or the 2 degree target for global warming. While some airlines have significantly improved their carbon efficiency by purchasing new aircraft, the pace of modernisation is not fast enough from a global standpoint.”

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

LanzaTech’s low-carbon jet fuel ready for take-off as Virgin Atlantic plans for first commercial flight in October

Fri 14 Sept 2018 – Virgin Atlantic will undertake a passenger flight in October using for the first time low-carbon fuel produced through its partnership with LanzaTech. This follows a decision by members of the fuel standards body ASTM in April to include alcohol-to-jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene (ATJ-SPK) produced from ethanol as an approved blending component of conventional jet fuel for commercial flights.

North American airports recognised for their achievements in environmental leadership

Fri 7 Apr 2017 – Miami International Airport, Indianapolis Airport Authority, Minneapolis-St Paul Metropolitan Airports Commission and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport have been announced as this year’s winners of the ACI-NA Environmental Achievement Awards. The four awards by trade association Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) recognise outstanding achievement in the categories of Environmental Management; Environmental Mitigation; Outreach, Education and Community Involvement; and Innovative/Special Projects. A runner-up award was made to Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The awards were started in 1997 and winning airports are required to demonstrate the environmental benefit of their project and its innovative approach, effective implementation, applicability and cost-effectiveness. Meanwhile, Dallas Fort Worth has received a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Climate Leadership Award for Organizational Leadership.

UK airspace improvements help NATS reduce carbon emissions but more modernisation required, it warns

Fri 23 Jun 2017 – Air navigation service provider (ANSP) NATS reports that improvements to the design of UK airspace helped save 55,900 tonnes of CO2 in 2016, worth £6.2 million ($8m) in fuel savings for airlines. In 2008, NATS became the first ANSP in the world to set an airspace environmental target and says it is currently tracking at a 5 per cent improvement on a goal to reduce air traffic management (ATM) related CO2 emissions by 10 per cent by 2020. However, warns NATS, it will become more difficult to achieve this unless further efficiencies can be delivered by modernising UK airspace. CO2 savings in the previous year were 157,000 tonnes. In its annual Responsible Business report, NATS says its campaign to increase the use of continuous descent approach (CDA) procedures by aircraft landing at UK airports resulted in an additional 32,070 quieter arrivals in 2016 over 2015.