EasyJet claims to have cut carbon emissions to below 80 grams for each kilometre travelled by passengers for the first time.
The budget carrier has now set a target of trimming these emissions further to around 77 grams by 2020, which would represent a reduction of more than 33% in 20 years.
Emissions have gone down from 116.2 grams in 2000, a reduction of more than 31% and are now 79.98 grams per passenger kilometre, down from 81.05 grams the previous year.
The airline cited improving technology and a continued long-term focus on reducing weight and improving operating efficiency for the cut.
Looking forward, the airline is developing a hybrid plane concept which would use a hydrogen fuel cell stowed in the aircraft’s hold as it looks at future technology which could further reduce carbon emissions or “fundamentally change” the way it flies.
The zero-emissions system allows energy to be captured as the aircraft brakes on landing and is used to charge the system’s lightweight batteries when the aircraft is on the ground – much like the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) found in Formula 1 cars.
The energy can then be used by the aircraft – for example when taxiing – without needing to use their jet engines.
EasyJet is also providing an airline operator’s perspective to Wright Electric, which is developing a commercial passenger aircraft that runs on electric batteries.
In the meantime, the airline’s engineering and flight operations teams continue to look for ways to improve the efficiency of the fleet and ensure aircraft are as light-weight as possible to reduce fuel burn and carbon emissions.
Pilots save fuel by using only one of two engines while taxiing, which averages 20 minutes for each flight – the equivalent of around four million miles a year.
They also use airport electrical power as much as possible when on the ground, rather than the auxiliary power unit which burns fuel.
An enhanced maintenance programme includes the washing of aircraft engine’s compressors regularly to ensure they operate as efficiently as possible.
Efficiencies have been gained through the reduction of weight from every area of the aircraft. The airline claims its seats offer increased passenger space but are also 26% lighter than previous versions.
All pilots use Panasonic Toughpads which replaced laptops and printed navigational charts. This removed 27 kilograms of paper on each aircraft, which has delivered a reduction of over 2,000 tonnes of carbon emissions for easyJet each year.
EasyJet’s fleet is made up 266 Airbus A320 family aircraft equipped with CFM56 engines.
New aircraft delivered since 2013 feature ‘Sharklet’ wing tips which improve the aerodynamics and deliver a 4% saving in CO2 emissions.
The airline takes delivery of its first new generation Airbus A320neo in June, with 130 to join the fleet by 2022.
These aircraft, equipped with CFM LEAP-1A engines, will be 15% more fuel efficient than existing aircraft types as well as reducing noise by 50%.
Captain Chris Foster, who leads easyJet’s carbon efficiency programme, said: “Through our efficiency programme we continually look for ways to reduce fuel usage and emissions.
“We are very pleased to have delivered emissions below 80 grams for each passenger kilometre for the first time and look forward to reaching our target of 77 grams by 2020.
“By using modern aircraft and flying them efficiently we will have successfully reduced the carbon impact of our flights by a third in 20 years, delivering a step change in the environmental impact of our flights.”
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