Virgin Atlantic fleet renewal programme leads to a three per cent fall in carbon emissions during 2013
Thu 20 Nov 2014 – An ongoing $7 billion fleet renewal programme has resulted in a much improved fuel efficiency and carbon reduction picture for Virgin Atlantic in 2013. In 2007, the airline set a target of achieving a 30% saving by 2020 in CO2 per revenue tonne kilometre (RTK), and halfway through the period it has so far achieved an 8% reduction. However, last year alone Virgin managed a 4% reduction and is confident of reaching its 2020 target as a result of fleet upgrade, operational fuel efficiency improvements and the use of sustainable fuels. The airline’s new 2014 Change is in the Air Sustainability Report covers the first full year of operations of its 10 new twin-engine A330-300s, which have been found to be around 30% more efficient than the four-engined A340-600s they replaced.
Further fuel efficiencies will come with the introduction of Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, which are expected to be around 20% more efficient on a per trip basis and 28% on a per seat basis than the aircraft they will replace. The airline has just taken delivery of its first Dreamliner and intends to add 20 more to its fleet by 2018, and they also come with a 60% smaller noise footprint than similar-sized older aircraft.
“As an airline, we have a huge responsibility to ensure we find long-term solutions to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and make sure any growth happens in a sustainable way,” commented Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger, who is also tasked with bringing the carrier into profitability. “Our new aircraft have been key players in helping to reduce our carbon emissions and we are excited about the further efficiencies our new fleet of Boeing 787-9s will bring as we look to 2018 when these new aircraft will make up two-thirds of our fleet.”
Alongside anticipated passenger and freight loads, the new aircraft are expected to contribute around 78% of the carbon reductions needed to meet the 2020 target, with operational efficiency improvements contributing 13% of the projected savings and sustainable fuels making up the balance.
The 30% reduction target introduced in 2007 has not resulted in regular annual declines in aircraft greenhouse gas emissions by the airline. However, for the first time since 2010 CO2e emissions fell last year, from 4,926,740 tonnes in 2012 to 4,772,101 in 2013 despite higher passenger numbers, and compares to a peak of 5,359,255 in 2008.
Due to the impact of the new aircraft joining the fleet and a higher overall load factor (78.6%), CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre decreased from 94.3 in 2012 to 91.3 in 2013, having peaked during the target period at 101.5 in 2008.
The airline also met a goal it set itself for 2013 of saving £8 million ($12.5m) in fuel costs through operational fuel efficiency improvements such as how aircraft were flown, loaded and maintained. These included reduced engine taxi-ins, washing the leading edge of aircraft wings by hand, reducing onboard weight and using fixed electrical ground power at airports rather than the aircraft’s APU.
On the ground, Virgin Atlantic has cut energy use across all its UK sites by over 15%, resulting in a 23% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and hitting its ground energy reduction target a year early. The airline reports it diverted 82% of its ground waste from landfill, including food waste that is now segregated and sent to anaerobic digesters.
“Our people at Virgin Atlantic are passionate about the airline leading on sustainability, and the teams all work extremely hard to push the boundaries in finding sustainable aviation solutions,” said Kreeger.