Pressure on airlines to dump ‘fuel tankering’ practise after investigation

Critics say money-saving practise undermines aviation industry’s claims that it is fully committed to cutting carbon emissions
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British Airways has launched a review into the contraversial practise of 'fuel tankering'.
BA
British Airways has launched a review into the contraversial practise of 'fuel tankering'.

British Airways will review its ‘fuel tankering’ practises and other airlines are being pressured to end theirs, following an investigation exposing the controversial method to an increasingly disenchanted public.

Fuel tankering involves filling planes with additional fuel to avoid paying higher prices for refuelling at destination airports. The industry-wide practise usually takes place on short-haul flights and saves airlines money but increases fuel burn and therefore carbon emissions.

A BBC Panorama investigation revealed that BA generated an additional 18,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018 through fuel tankering practises for relatively minor cost savings.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA’s parent company, IAG, admitted that fuel tankering was “maybe…the wrong thing to do” because of its impact on the environment. Mr Walsh announced that BA would launch a review of its practise.

Some airlines say that the widely-used practise is used for safety and operational purposes and can help planes to turn around quickly.

But critics have accused airlines of hypocrisy and say that fuel tankering undermines the aviation industry’s claims that it is fully committed to environmental sustainability.   

The BBC found that one short-haul BA flight carried an additional three tonnes of fuel, meaning the jet emitted 600kg extra of CO2 for a cost saving of less than £40 (AED 189).

The airline uses software to calculate the level of costs that can be saved by fuel tankering, according to a BA whistleblower.

BA told investigators that fuel tankering is predominantly used on short-haul routes in Europe where fuel prices vary “considerably” across airports. The airline has pledged to offset all carbon emissions from domestic flights from next year.

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