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New study finds major variations in fuel efficiency of transatlantic airlines

18th November, 2015

A new report by ICCT, the independent U.S. think tank, has ranked the fuel efficiency of the top airlines on routes between the U.S. and Europe, finding a 51% difference between the most (Norwegian Air Shuttle) and least (British Airways, BA) fuel efficient airlines.

The ability to differentiate the performance of airlines operating between Europe and the U.S. provides a welcome insight into how different airlines operate and the significant difference between the best and worst performers demonstrates the potential for operational improvements. The poor performance of legacy carriers in general suggests that fuel efficiency is not the top priority in their business model.

The research combines data on the airlines operations with aircraft fuel burn modelling to assess fuel efficiency on a passenger kilometre basis. The report found that seating configuration (i.e. premium seating) and the fuel economy of the aircraft being operated are the two most important factors influencing airline fuel efficiency, explaining 80% of the variation among the airlines studied.

For carriers such as BA, premium seating had a major influence on efficiency on a per passenger basis, with first class and business seats accounting for a third of the airlines emissions but only 24% of seats.

A key finding is that the airlines which had invested in new, advanced aircraft were significantly more fuel efficient than the airlines flying older planes, including the three least-efficient airlines (BA, the Scandinavian airline SAS, and Lufthansa) which accounted for a fifth of the available seat capacity.

While the efficiency for different airlines varies so significantly, on average, a round trip across the Atlantic is responsible for a tonne of CO2 emissions per passenger on board. There is therefore a clear role for policies that drive improved fuel efficiency, such as an ambitious CO2 standard.


Download: ICCT fact sheet: Transatlantic Airline Fuel Efficiency Ranking 2014

Visit: ICCT website