Who has the “cleanest” planes?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

British_Airways_857_19385812_0_0_4005_300From the International Council on Clean Transportation comes a claim that British Airways and Lufthansa burn more fuel and emit more environmentally damaging CO2 than any other carrier flying between Europe and the US.

Their report claims that BA passengers typically travelled only 27 kms per litre of fuel while at the other end of the scale Norwegian Air passengers travelled 40 kms per litre.

On the face of it, this looks useful research but the ICCT then goes on to say that the most important factors affecting fuel burn were seating configuration and aircraft fuel efficiency. It says that, “Passenger load factor (i.e., percentage of seats filled) and freight carriage are relatively less important drivers of fuel efficiency.” So why calculate figures on a passenger per kilometre basis?

Take Norwegian. On the planes it uses flying to the US it has 291 seats on its Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Yes, the plane emits something like 20% less admissions than similar sized planes. British Airways has a range of planes but a fair comparison is probably with the Boeing 777-200 which seats eleven fewer. If you add the BA business class flight from London City to New York which carries 32 passengers then the figures look worse. Again, according to the report, BA carries twice as many premium passengers than other airlines.

Automatically then the amount of CO2 gasses emitted per passenger is greater. On the other hand passengers have more room which is what they want and which the traditional carriers give. No-frills airlines like Norwegian try to get in as many seats as possible to maximise their profits and to be able to claim lower fares.

The report says, “For carriers like British Airways and Swiss, premium seating was responsible for almost one-half of their total emissions from passenger travel.”

Do they provide a solution? No, ICCT just presents the issue without pointing out a few things. The first is that many airlines would go bust if there were no first or business class passengers. Secondly not all airlines can change their planes when a new model comes out. Think of the family car. Most of us don’t buy it to replace it every other year. We expect it to last and changing it means expense spent on other things.

We just can’t afford it regardless of the impact on the environment. The same applies to airlines.

The report is accurate. What it lacks is interpretation and an understanding of the industry. When will bodies like the ICTT look at things from a practical standpoint instead of just being holier than thou?




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