Cathay Pacific achieves 4.5% improvement in fuel efficiency as it makes progress on sustainability performance
Fri 30 Oct 2015 – Cathay Pacific achieved a 4.5% improvement in the fuel efficiency of its passenger and cargo operations in 2014 over the previous year, according to the airline group’s latest annual sustainability report. Since 1998, the overall revenue-tonne-kilometre (RTK) fuel efficiency performance has improved by 22.8%. In addition to a contribution from a higher load factor in 2014, the airline attributes the progress to ongoing fleet modernisation and flight efficiency measures such as single-engine taxiing and onboard weight reductions. However, as a result of growth in capacity, CO2 emissions from fuel burn for Cathay Pacific and sister airline Dragonair increased from 15.5 million tonnes in 2013 to 16.4 million tonnes in 2014 (+5.8%), the group’s first rise in total emissions since 2011.
During 2014, the two airlines took delivery of 16 new Airbus and Boeing aircraft, and nine new aircraft are scheduled for delivery this year, which they say will deliver significant fuel savings and a lower noise footprint. Boeing 777-300ER aircraft form the backbone of the Cathay ultra long-haul fleet, realising fuel efficiency improvements of 26-28% compared to their predecessors. Six Boeing 747-400s were retired last year. Over the next 10 years, the airline is expecting to add 79 new aircraft to its fleet, including the Airbus A350 and Boeing 777-9X and 747-8F.
“We recognise the amount of research and development effort that goes into designing, testing and manufacturing a new aircraft and the significant investment and risk associated with bringing a new product to market,” says the report. “But this is the challenge of climate change – where a step-change through radical designs and technology is imperative in meeting our climate change targets.”
In 2014, the group established the Flight Efficiency Working Group to manage better use of fuel and improving fuel efficiency. Projects are now focused in areas such as aircraft weight, performance and operation, as well as airspace efficiency.
One project last year included a study with Hong Kong International Airport in preparation for a ban on APU use at the airport and various procedures were evaluated to minimise APU usage. As a result of action by the Working Group, Cathay Pacific also implemented reduced engine taxiing during 2014, following its introduction by Dragonair the previous year.
Other measures introduced in 2014 that have resulted in a reduction in fuel and emissions include a move towards paperless cockpits that involve replacing weighty charts, manuals and documents with Electronic Flight Bags. Three aircraft have been used to evaluate the use of new antennas that significantly reduce aircraft drag and therefore fuel burn. Around 5,600 tonnes of fuel was saved from engine core washes during 2014, resulting in a reduction of 17,600 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
The airline group is an active player in the development of sustainable aviation biofuels. In addition to membership of the industry Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), Cathay Pacific last year joined the Commercial Alternative Aviation Fuel Users Initiative (CAAFI). In 2014, it also announced an investment in US-based municipal solid waste (MSW) to jet fuel developer Fulcrum BioEnergy, which includes a long-term supply agreement for an initial 375 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel over 10 years.
The sustainability report reveals that under Cathay Pacific’s FLY greener carbon offset programme, its passengers offset 3,300 tonnes of CO2 in 2014, the same outcome as in 2009. Cathay Pacific and Dragonair also offset 10,000 tonnes of CO2 at a cost of around HK$250,000 ($32,000) in respect of staff travelling on business during 2014. The programme supports hydro power and wind power projects in Guangdong Province, China.
On the ground, the group has implemented a number of measures to reduce food waste where possible from passenger meals and a trial has been run to donate unopened TetraPak juices to a local food bank in Hong Kong. Various environmental inflight initiatives have led to the recycling of more than 500,000kg of glass, around 20,000kg of aluminium and over 40,000kg of plastic. Glass bottles collected from flights have been turned into paving bricks for pathways and roads.
The airline’s passenger lounge at Paris Charles de Gaulle has achieved silver level LEED certification in recognition of the practical and measurable strategies and solutions implemented at achieving a higher performance in sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. It is the first and only airport lounge in the world to have received such certification to date.
In 2014, Cathay Pacific partnered with Business for Social Responsibility’s Centre for Sustainable Procurement to develop and trial a set of specially designed, simple comparative tools to assess the environmental impact of different materials used in the airline’s products. This, says the airline, is helping its teams in the procurement of more environmentally friendly and sustainable products, such as lighter and reusable containers and cutlery for the inflight meal service.
“At Cathay Pacific we believe that life should be lived well, and that part of living well is to take a more sustainable approach that can help to preserve the environment for future generations. The Cathay Group’s sustainability strategy focuses on five key aspects, including our operations, people and communities, customers, suppliers and infrastructure,” said James Tong, Cathay Pacific Director Corporate Affairs.
“We continued to make progress on our sustainability performance last year, making a positive and far-reaching contribution to the sustainable development of our industry, the people and communities we serve, and the environment in which we live.”