Record additions of new aircraft fail to help Emirates improve fuel efficiency of its passenger operations
Emirates Airbus A380 in United for Wildlife livery (photo: Emirates)
Tue 24 Jan 2017 – Longer flight paths to avoid regional trouble-spots, along with a drop-off in load factors, are blamed by Gulf carrier Emirates for failing to improve the fuel efficiency of its passenger operations for the second year in a row. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions grew 12.8% in the year 2015-16, outstripping the 11% growth in capacity with the introduction of new routes, higher frequencies and increased capacity with larger aircraft on a number of existing routes, according to Emirates’ latest environmental report. Despite bringing down the average age of the fleet from 75 months to 74 as a result of adding 29 new aircraft, passenger fuel efficiency reached 4.20 litres per 100 passenger kilometres, compared with 3.99 L/100 PK in 2014-15. As in the previous year, however, the fuel efficiency of Emirates’ freighter operations managed to improve fuel efficiency performance.
Explaining the fall in fuel efficiency, Emirates’ sixth annual environmental report says: “Weighing against the successful growth of our network and our fuel efficiency efforts, we faced challenges such as continuing and new closures of airspace for security reasons in several regions, requiring longer flight paths to avoid these areas; a decline in overall load factor by 1.8 percentage points to 65.5%, partly reflecting global market dynamics; and a need to put in place measures to ensure the integrity of our hub operations.”
The fuel efficiency of Emirates’ freighters improved 0.9%, reaching 0.1803 litres per freight tonne kilometre, but overall fuel efficiency for the entire fleet climbed to 0.3269 litres per tonne kilometre, compared with 0.3057 L/TK the previous year.
Jet fuel consumption rose from just under 9 million tonnes in 2014-15 to 10.1 million tonnes in 2015-16, resulting in CO2 emissions increasing from 28.3 million tonnes to 31.9 million tonnes.
With a fleet of 252 passenger, freighter and executive aircraft as of the end of March 2016 – comprising mainly Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s – in 2015-16 Emirates added a record 29 new aircraft to its fleet while retiring nine older aircraft. It is one of the youngest fleets for a major carrier and nearly half the industry average of 140 months.
To improve fuel performance, the airline’s flight operations specialists have been working with air traffic management providers and airports around the world to deliver more efficient flight routings and operational procedures. At its Dubai International main hub, infrastructure and operational changes have increased capacity and reduced holding delays, reports Emirates, increasing the predictability and resilience of operations. The airline has also been working with NATS in the UK to support the airspace restructure around Heathrow Airport, together with the implementation of ‘time-based separation’ to enable reductions in delays and airborne holding times.
“We will be redoubling our efforts on fuel efficiency in the coming year,” says the report, “looking at all aspects from pilot operating techniques, through ground handling and auxiliary power unit use, to maintenance and weight reduction opportunities, as well as continuing our cooperation with authorities and air traffic management providers around the world to ensure that we can fly the most fuel-efficient flight paths.”
The report welcomes the ICAO CAEP agreement on a new CO2 efficiency standard and progress on a new standard for aircraft engine particulate emissions. On the decision by the ICAO Assembly last October to establish the global CORSIA carbon offset scheme, it adds: “It will now be important for the international aviation industry, and for all of the stakeholders who benefit from international aviation, that market-based measures involving international aviation be globally harmonised to the extent possible, to avoid the potential development of overlapping schemes.”
On the ground, a one megawatt array of solar phot voltaic panels has been installed at the Emirates Engine Maintenance Centre in partnership with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority. The array is made up of 2,990 photovoltaic panels that are expected to generate over 1,800 megawatt-hours of electricity annually and help save around 800 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Other advances include a reduction of the carbon footprint of the Emirates’ ground transportation fleet by 10%, replacement by LEDs of the lights used for aircraft cabin maintenance and improvements in energy efficiency at Emirates’ London office and facilities in Australia.
During the year, in addition to supporting ongoing wildlife conservation efforts in Dubai and Australia, Emirates partnered with United for Wildlife to raise awareness about the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.
“As our business grows, we are ever conscious that we have a responsibility to the communities we serve around the world. Aviation and travel services as an industry can make a real contribution towards achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, CEO of Emirates Airline & Group, commenting on the report’s release. “As we head into 2017, agility will be the defining characteristic of our approach, both to react quickly to challenges and to make the most of opportunities. Working together with our partners across the industry, we will continue to invest in technologies and processes that enable us to deliver our services effectively, efficiently and with the minimum environmental impact.”