Too many airline operators are paying lip service to fuel efficiency management, concludes industry survey
Tue 22 Oct 2013 – With fuel accounting for up to 40% of operating costs, most airlines and aircraft operators place fuel efficiency as second only to safety in their organisation’s priorities, yet implementing and running a cost-effective fuel efficiency programme is far from common. A survey carried out by Aircraft IT magazine finds that for more than 50% of operators, running such a programme at all was either a completely new departure or had only been embarked upon in the last three years. Of those who use in-house software, almost half are disappointed with the results. The biggest barrier to implementing an effective programme, according to the survey, is the issue of extracting and processing reliable data, with a lack of priority given to the issue by senior management, surprisingly, as the second most important reason. Suppliers of specialised fuel efficiency management software solutions say the survey backs up their own findings.
Of the 150 airlines and operators that responded to the survey, over half spent more than 30% of their total costs on fuel and almost a third spent over 40% so the importance placed on fuel efficiency was unsurprising. That senior management placed a lower priority on implementing a fuel efficiency management strategy was though an unexpected discovery. The magazine suggests this may be because management needs a better understanding of the data it already has in order to be convinced of its potential to unlock significant cost efficiencies.
Around 65% of respondents said they had access to data that would enable them to implement a dedicated fuel efficiency management tool, while 40% are taking management decisions based on what they describe as unreliable data.
Despite accuracy of results being regarded as twice as important as return on investment in a programme’s deliverables, 49% of respondents rely on in-house software or Excel-based systems rather than pay for specialist fuel efficiency software solutions.
One such provider is ETS Aviation, which says the survey points to an industry that has all the data it needs, and more, but is not focused on processing and analysing that data in order to maximise fuel efficiencies. “The fact is that most operators have access to all the necessary data in their operational systems – all they need is the commitment and the tools to extract it,” said David Carlisle, CEO of ETS Aviation, which sponsored the survey and provides efficiency programmes to 12 airlines. “The message is clear: too many operators are paying lip service to fuel efficiency.”
Rudolf Christen, CEO of Aviaso, said the survey confirmed his company’s experience. “Three components are crucial for a successful fuel efficiency programme: first, the know-how on how to save fuel, then the proper organisation including candid management commitment and, last but not least, good software to manage the programme.
“Our clients tell us that the two most important criteria for fuel efficiency software are functionality and data quality. Without the right software, the fuel efficiency management at an airline is spending most of its time in merging data and checking the data quality, whereas with good software, management can focus on discovering fuel savings and monitoring progress of its efficiency improvement programme.”
Simon Mayes, Senior Consultant with Rolls-Royce subsidiary Optimized Systems and Solutions (OSyS), said: “This interesting survey supports our own findings when discussing fuel management and best practice with our customers, before they took on a more managed service like ours. Airlines are still data rich but often information poor and improving that is down to combining data in a way that is trusted and able to communicate a complicated message simply.
“Many areas of the airline business can influence fuel burn but they need to see data in a language they understand and can trust, as is seen in the responses to the survey. If you struggle with this then it is likely you will be struggling to find the activities you can influence and change to save fuel.
“The benefit of having external suppliers like ourselves supplying this service is that they bring the expertise from many engagements with different airlines and cultural operating environments to maximise the potential return made.”
Adds OSyS Service Delivery Consultant Aaron Robinson: “While larger carriers may have invested in fuel efficiency software, many smaller carriers have not yet reached the same level of maturity. Although they may be working on individual initiatives, comprehensive programmes have been demonstrated to deliver successful and sustainable results, and achieve higher savings.”
Aircraft IT magazine says the fuel efficiency issue is likely to become ever more important to regulatory authorities and to bodies charged with global environmental concerns, as well as to aircraft operators.
“In the long term, new aircraft will be more efficient but you cannot replace a fleet overnight. You can implement a fuel efficiency programme, if not overnight then certainly within a couple of months and at considerably less cost than the purchase price of a new aircraft. And new aircraft, even with increasingly high levels of fuel efficiency, can be operated at less than their potential efficiency, so will still need to be accurately tracked,” it concludes.