Lufthansa Group fails for the first time to improve annual fuel efficiency of its fleet
Thu 28 July 2016 – After years of continuous improvement, Lufthansa Group’s fuel efficiency gains stalled in 2015, just matching the achievement of the previous year. The group’s specific fuel consumption measurement recorded an overall 3.84 litres per 100 passenger kilometres (l/100pkm) on its passenger operations, and freight transportation specific fuel consumption increased from 221 g/km in 2014 to 225 g/km in 2015. Overall carbon emissions rose from 27.8 million tonnes (Mt) in 2014 to nearly 28.2 Mt in 2015, a 1.4% increase. This year, the Group will add 52 new, more efficient aircraft to its fleet and is the first to operate the new Airbus A320neo, with the A350-900 entering next winter. The new Bombardier CSeries has just entered service with its Swiss subsidiary. The Group said it was also working to improve its carbon footprint through over 500 fuel efficiency programmes it has started since 2013.
Lufthansa Group’s latest annual ‘Balance’ Sustainability Report – the 22nd year it has been published – does not offer a reason for being unable to improve on its overall 2014 fuel efficiency record but does note the payload factor was 1.1% lower than the preceding year. Passenger numbers, though, increased to a record 107.7 million in 2015.
Lufthansa, which is responsible for around 70% of the Group’s total fuel consumption, was the only airline member that managed to improve its fuel efficiency, registering 3.88 l/100pkm in 2015 compared with 3.91 l/100pkm in 2014. Low-cost subsidiary Germanwings, the worst performer in the Group, slipped back from a fuel efficiency of 4.18 in 2014 to 4.25 l/100pkm last year. However, the Group points out that overall it continues to decouple performance from fuel consumption and whereas consumption has risen by 186% since 1991, performance has improved by 350%.
The Group has 600 aircraft in the fleet as of the end of last December, with an average age of 11.8 years, a slight increase over the previous year. Lufthansa’s aircraft average 10.6 years, Swiss 14.0 years and Austrian 16.2 years, with the Germanwings fleet having the lowest average at 8.8 years.
Lufthansa is expecting to add five A320neo aircraft to its fleet by the end of 2016, which are claimed to be over 15% more fuel efficient than previous models. The airline says this translates into around 5,000 tonnes less CO2 emitted per aircraft per year and is the equivalent of 485 flights between Berlin and Paris. The new aircraft are also equipped with vortex generators as standard to prevent the occasional noise nuisance that affects the A320 family when approaching an airport (see article). The airline group has 116 of the aircraft on order, 45 of which are for the larger A321neo and are earmarked for Lufthansa and Swiss.
The Airbus A350-900s that will enter operations from 2017, on average consume just 2.9 l/100pkm, around 25% less than that consumed by aircraft currently flying and has a noise footprint up to 50% smaller, says Lufthansa.
In 2008, the Group set up an environmental programme to take it through to 2020 but says it plans to evaluate and reassess the programme during this year “in the light of current requirements”, and a working group of environmental experts has been set up. The environmental strategy of the Lufthansa Group is overseen by the Group Environmental Issues department, with all larger subsidiaries having their own environmental departments or a coordinator.
The Group continues to work towards the development of sustainable alternative fuels and as of January this year, airlines within the group that serve Oslo Airport have been refuelling their aircraft with a blended fuel mix containing 5% of biokerosene under an initiative with Air BP, SkyNRG and airport operator Avinor (see article). Around 1.25 million litres of sustainable fuel will be made available for a period of one year and used by about 5,000 flights. Lufthansa is also planning to release this year details of a blending study it carried out with a German Armed Forces research institute.
The ‘Balance’ report notes the EU is currently still applying its emissions trading system (EU ETS) to all intra-European flights despite the development of a global system by ICAO. “In the opinion of the Lufthansa Group, insular solutions of this kind are the wrong approach, as they unilaterally burden European airlines in contrast to airlines outside of Europe,” it argues.