Airlines plan range of options to cut down on fuel and carbon emissions

DUBAI — Do you want ice cubes with that? Say yes and you could be adding to your flight's fuel needs and carbon emissions.

By Zoe Sinclair (Our staff reporter)

Published: Tue 10 Jun 2008, 10:58 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 6:26 PM

Ice cubes seem an insignificant weight, but reducing the number of ice cubes, carrying smaller cutlery and opting for chips instead of cookies are part of a range of options airlines are adopting to reduce weight.

The less weight carried, the less fuel needed and thus carbon emissions, and fuel costs, are cut.

The International Air Traffic Association (IATA) Aviation Environment Assistant Director, Quentin Browell, speaking to Khaleej Times during an IATA conference in Dubai recently, said "green teams" were recommending various options to airlines as ways to reduce weight and fuel use.

Browell said weight-cutting methods such as reducing the number of ice cubes, lighter trolleys and replacing glass with plastic, had helped some airlines save up to 700mn tonnes of carbon dioxide or up to 14 per cent in fuel costs per year.

"Airlines are looking at reducing magazines and potable water," he said. "The weight of seats, using light weight trolleys with light weight materials. Reducing spoons, the number of ice cubes."

UAE airlines are already implementing the measures with industry figures reporting that a plane saves 34,000 litres of fuel per year for each kilogramme less in weight per seat.

An Emirates spokesperson confirmed the airline had removed footrests and moving functions online as part of weight saving measures.

"For instance, Emirates has introduced a programme to lessen the use of paper navigation charts for crew use on board our aircraft, eventually replacing these with electronic charts. This could save up to 15kg per flight," the spokesperson said. "We have also removed footrests from seats, which not only reduces weight but also increases leg space."

Etihad Airways spokesperson Thomas Clarke said the airline had also begun using Skybooks, an electronic version of completing aviation charts and log books.

"We also have comprehensive touch screens and we will look to make all the information online so that the passengers could peruse duty free items online," he said. "We're also evaluating how much duty free is needed onboard for the number of passengers."

Clarke said the airline had also implemented a fuel management system and was testing a weight management system to be implemented in the next six months.

"The fuel management system records every litre of fuel, where it's used and where to save it," he said. "The centralised load system allows to optimise and plan loads, such as potable water, according to the number of passengers."

Similarly Emirates Group had a Fuel Management Steering Group and had implemented 'fuel gap' analysis measures, working with IATA and internal programmes.

Both the country's major carriers highlighted that weight-cutting was only one method to reduce fuel with the airlines' young fleets the biggest fuel saver. Emirates averages about five and half years while Etihad's fleet is less than two and half years old.

"The single biggest impact on fuel burn is the type of aircraft being operated. Modern, new aircraft embrace the latest airframe and engine enhancements, burning less fuel and producing fewer emissions," an Emirates spokesperson said.

It was a point Air Arabia spokesperson Housam Raydan also made, while saying low-cost carriers already had incentives to keep cabin necessities to a minimum.

"We haven't removed anything. What we have now is necessary," Raydan said. "You have to be creative, innovative but you have to keep your service."

Browell said fuel savings could be made without significantly affecting the passenger. “There's no need to sacrifice comfort," he said. "You can have as comfortable seats but light weight."

Browell said the aviation industry and travelling was being unfairly attacked for its contributions to carbon emissions which worldwide amounted only to 2 per cent according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

"Flying has become the new tobacco - where people are being made guilty for flying," he said.

Additionally, passengers were bearing the cost with regional environmental taxes hitting travellers multiple times.

Browell gave the example of a traveller flying from New York to London. The passenger would incur a Lieberman-Warner tax of about $14, a European Union tax of about $12 and a UK air passenger duty tax of about $20.

More news from