Airlines having difficulty in raising carbon efficiency in line with growth, finds atmosfair
Mon 10 Dec 2018 – German non-profit carbon offsetting company atmosfair says airlines that have not updated their fleets or have only made slight improvements have lost ground in its latest global ranking of airline carbon efficiency. Worldwide, it says, only one in ten airlines is managing to keep its CO2 emissions in line with its traffic growth and fuel efficiency is rarely moving at the same pace as kilometres flown. Carbon emissions grew by 5 per cent, while the number of kilometres flown increased by 6 per cent, according to the data for 2016 examined by atmosfair of the largest 190 airlines covered by its Airline Index 2018. UK holiday airline TUI Airways again topped the rankings of the most efficient airlines, with LATAM the best performing international scheduled carrier.
“Our results show that that the efficiency improvements of the vast majority of airlines worldwide are not sufficient, neither for the 1.5 degree nor for the 2 degree target of Paris,” said atmosfair Managing Director Dietrich Brockhagen, presenting the findings at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. “We need new, synthetic and carbon-neutral fuels and other more radical measures to curb CO2 emissions in the sector.”
New aircraft types such as the Boeing 787-9 and the Airbus A350-900 and A320neo considerably raise the bar in terms of efficiency, achieving fuel consumptions of less than 3.5 litres of jet kerosene per passenger/100 kilometres, says atmosfair. As these aircraft models do not make up the majority of any fleet, it says no airline reaches atmosfair’s efficiency class A, and only two airlines – compared with three the previous year – made class B. The best results are achieved by airlines that use modern aircraft ideally suited to the flight distance, have dense seating and good occupancy rates for passengers and cargo.
The latest index used data from ICAO, IATA, OAG and FlightGlobal to analyse 33 million flights covering 22,600 city pairs, representing 92% of global air traffic. Each airline can score between 0 and 100 efficiency points, broken down into short, medium and long haul flight distance categories. Differences among airlines can be substantial, with fuel consumption per passenger/km being up to twice as high for one airline compared to another on the same route, finds atmosfair.
The purpose of the ranking, it says, is to allow passengers and companies to compare airlines when planning a flight and choose the airline with the lowest carbon emissions on a desired route.
Charter airlines filled six of the top 10 carriers in the overall rankings, with TUI Airways scoring nearly 80 efficiency points, followed in second place by LATAM Airlines, whose score improved from 72.3 points in 2017 to 78.8 this year. Another UK leisure airline Thomas Cook, in seventh place, also improved it score over the previous year. Ranking third, regional carrier China West Air is the first Chinese airline to remain permanently in the group of the best airlines.
Of the top 50 most efficient airlines in the world, 14 are located in Europe and 10 in China. Apart from LATAM, major international network carriers that performed well included Air New Zealand, Vietnam Airlines, KLM and Thai Airways, who were all ranked in the top 30. Other airlines commended by atmosfair for improving their overall fuel and carbon efficiency whilst growing economically include Finnair, American Airlines and All Nippon Airways.
Airlines that achieve the best result are those using modern aircraft and equipment such as winglets, having high seating densities and high rates of passenger occupancy and load utilisation. Atmosfair acknowledges that airlines have differing priorities in optimising their service to customers and does not assess these priorities but says it does evaluate the CO2 emissions associated with them.
LATAM scores highly, it points out, due to operating a fleet with efficient aircraft, slightly more seating than average and an increased occupancy level on short and medium distance routes. Other airlines may have predominantly modern fleets but could have below average seating and/or lower occupancy levels, and so are ranked lower. China West serves short and medium distance routes with moderately efficient Airbus A319-100 and A320-200 aircraft but has very dense seating and very high occupancy.
Commenting on TUI Airways and TUI fly’s strong performance in the Index, Kenton Jarvis, CEO of TUI Aviation, said: “TUI’s fleet of modern airplanes is 24% more eco-efficient compared to other European airlines. Investing in more efficient airplanes is key, and the phase-in of 72 new Boeing 737 MAX by 2023 will support the delivery of our commitment to further reduce the carbon intensity of our operations.”
Responding to the atmosfair report, a spokesman for the cross-industry Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) said:
“There are a number of flaws with the analysis ranking airlines on efficiency, not least of which is the fact it is based on assumptions, rather than actual emissions. This means any operational efficiency measures of the airlines are not taken into account. It also does not compare like-with-like. Charter, low cost and network carriers all operate different business models and provide distinct services using different aircraft types for a reason – they aim to balance the needs of their passengers with efficiency of the whole operation. So, comparing an airline that only flies one aircraft type point-to-point with a network carrier operating a hub system linking many small cities with large does not present an accurate picture. These attempts at analysis provide no real useful service and are often out of date. Passengers should not use them to make decisions.”