A turbulent year that included the need to avoid war zones created challenges that saw Emirates’ 2015-16 growth in fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions outpace its rapid increase in capacity.
The giant Gulf carrier continues to investigate new ways to fly more efficiently after a 12.8 per cent rise in fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions outstripped an 11 per cent growth in capacity, measured in available tonnes per kilometres.
Most of the increase was driven by growth that included the introduction to the network of eight new destinations, higher frequencies to 20 existing ports and the use of bigger aircraft on some routes.
But weighing against the carrier’s fuel efficiency efforts, according to its latest environmental report, were challenges such as airspace closures due to security concerns.
“Against our business successes, the past year was a turbulent one,’’ chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said in the report.
“Instability in many parts of the world including Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Yemen has led us to re-route flights to avoid conflict zones, which has had the unavoidable effect of increasing the fuel consumption on the flights that would normally transit these regions.’’
Other factors included tougher market conditions that were partly responsible for a 1.8 percentage fall in overall load factor to 65.5 per cent as well as measures to ensure the integrity of the airline’s Dubai hub.
As a result, the airline’s per passenger fuel use in 2015-16 grew 5.3 per cent to 4.20 litres per 100 passenger kilometres, compared with 3.99 litres per 100 passenger kilometres the year before
Overall fuel efficiency fell to 0.3269 litres per tonne kilometre, compared with 0.3057 litres per tonne kilometre the previous year, despite a 0.9 per cent improvement in the fuel efficiency of the carrier’s freighters.
“We will be redoubling our efforts on fuel efficiency in the coming year, looking at all aspects from pilot operating techniques, through ground handling and auxiliary power unit (APU) 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 said.
A major plank of the Dubai carrier’s efforts to keep carbon emissions under control is the youth of its fleet: 74 months on average compared to industry average of 140 months. Emirates added 29 new aircraft in 2015-16 while retiring nine older aircraft.
The young fleet means it complies with Chapter 4 noise requirements, the most stringent currently in force.
The company has been working with air traffic control at its Dubai hub to introduce a program to improve the arrival rate of aircraft by decreasing the spacing between aircraft and the UK air traffic controller, NATS, to restructure airspace around London Heathrow to reduce delays due to strong winds.
It also scored runs with a 10 per cent reduction in the footprint of its ground transportation fleet as well as a major solar installation at its engine maintenance centre.
The 1-megawatt array involved the installation of 2990 panels to form a roof over the engine centre’s car parks to generate more than 1.88 megawatt-hours of electricity each year and save about 800 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Other energy efficiency initiatives included the replacement of lights used for aircraft cabin maintenance with energy saving LED lights, a comprehensive refurbishment of Emirates’ London office that improved energy efficiency by 60 per cent and reduction in power consumption in offshoot dnata’s cargo operations in Brisbane and Sydney.
Emirates continued its wildlife conservation efforts in Dubai and Australia while partnering conservation umbrella group partners for wildlife to raise awareness about the devastation caused by the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.