Airlines accused of hypocrisy over 'fuel-tankering'

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This topic contains 26 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  SimonS1 4 Dec 2019
at 13:45
.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 27 total)

  • capetonianm
    Participant

    Maybe those who thought this nonsense up should look at it realistically. The cost of tankering in emissions is far less than a diversion due to fuel shortage.


    canucklad
    Participant

    What surprised me, is the nonsensical variation in aviation fuel prices that make it financially viable enough to encourage this daft practice.

    And I’d imagine that the LCC’s with their minimal turnaround times are probably the most guilty ?


    SimonS1
    Participant

    Maybe those who thought this nonsense up should look at it realistically. The cost of tankering in emissions is far less than a diversion due to fuel shortage.

    I don’t think the article is suggesting that aircraft should take off without sufficient contingencies for a diversion.

    However there is a subtle difference between having a diversionary reserve and fuelling an aircraft for its return journey in order to save £40.

    You can tell BA realises it has been caught out here, hence Walsh’s comments.


    SimonS1
    Participant

    What surprised me, is the nonsensical variation in aviation fuel prices that make it financially viable enough to encourage this daft practice.

    And I’d imagine that the LCC’s with their minimal turnaround times are probably the most guilty ?

    To the contrary, the argument with LCCs was always that they tried to minimise fuel carried in order to save weight and money, resulting in excessive fuel emergencies at the expense of other airlines. This was the subject of a Dutch documentary a few years back…..Ryanair took the producers to court and lost.


    IanFromHKG
    Participant

    To capetonianm:

    Maybe those who thought this nonsense up should look at it realistically. The cost of tankering in emissions is far less than a diversion due to fuel shortage.

    I note SimonS1’s subsequent comment about LCCs but I have to assume, capteonianm, as the second poster, that you were responding only to the original post which was about BA.

    Since you seem to imply – sorry, my mistake, you state very explicitly – that the “cost of tankering in emissions is far less than a diversion due to fuel shortage”, could I please ask you to back that up with some statistics or sources? I did not think that diversions due to fuel shortages were that frequent nowadays, which would seem to limit their impact, and of course your assertion would have to be averaged across all flights (all tankering and all diverted flights, at the very least, and quite probably all flights – I leave that to the statisticians and would love Bath_VIP to join in at this point). Overall I would be very surprised f you were correct.

    I would like to make it clear that I am challenging your assertion simply because (a) I haven’t been able to find any sources to back up your claim (admittedly, I haven’t found the opposite either, but that is hardly surprising since I can’t imagine there being much interest in writing or reading an article about “how much my flight would have polluted the planet if it had been diverted only it wasn’t”) and (b) I find your claim surprising. I am very willing to be proved wrong (I always welcome that, it helps me learn!). I did hunt around BA’s website but found nothing about fuel costs for diverted flights (and, in fairness, nothing about fuel tankering either).

    You and I rarely (albeit occasionally!) disagree so I know you won’t take this as a bloody-minded response but I really do wonder about the validity of your claim. Again – happy to be proved wrong!!

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    SimonS1
    Participant

    As stated earlier, I think this is a complete red herring.

    No-one is suggesting aircraft should be left without a safe level of fuel, however having a diversionary reserve and fuelling an aircraft for its return journey from Italy (being the case quoted) in order to save £40 are two different things.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    capetonianm
    Participant

    Simon, I had just started writing a reply and friends turned up unexpectedly, I will reply to you later. sorry


    capetonianm
    Participant

    Simon : This is a discussion and I don’t take your challenge as bloody-minded, it opens the welcome opportunity for further discussion.

    Unfortunately I have had an unexpectedly busy day and have not had time to research this properly.

    could I please ask you to back that up with some statistics or sources?

    I am unable to do so given the huge mount of variables, and I’ll expand on that later. The reality is that there are no fixed costs for diversions but what has to be taken into account is not just fuel costs but costs such as where applicable, accommodation, meals, reroutings, ongoing downroute delays, and in our compensation culture, possible compensation claim costs (350 x €600 = 210,000) or cost of defending claims.

    Like yourself, I couldn’t find anything regarding the costs of diversions, and I think the reason is as above.
    A few days before the tankering thing went into the hysterical media, I had lunch with a couple of friends, both recently retired senior captains, B747 and A330/340. They were obviously aware of the impending publicity and some of their remarks are not suitable for this website (!) Their views were based upon long haul flights as the scenario for LOCOs/shorthaul is somewhat different.

    The extra fuel burn used by tankering is very variable. They expressed the view that once established into cruise, the extra weight causes very slight extra fuel burn, with the climbout phase being critical in this regard. Time in cruise for a longhaul flight is proportionately far greater than for s/h flights. Tankering was performed where fuel supplies at turnaround were erratic, limited, or of poor quality, and where there was a significant risk of having a considerable distance to cover to land at a suitable alternate airport.

    On s/h flights in Europe those limitations were not a consideration, eliminating a need for tankering which could give rise to greater fuel burn due to proportionately more time spent climbing, and also quick turnarounds would often mean there was little or no time for tankering, but only to take on the minimum safe fuel. They didn’t think that any responsible captain would tanker to save £40. We may assume that there are some who would, and in fact this is one of my reasons for not flying with an airline that squeeze margins to that extent. No names of course!

    So, in essence, no, I can’t give you a clear affirmation of the validity of my claim. I’d be genuinely interested to know if there is one.


    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    On a much smaller scale, why is fuel tankering by the airlines, any different from commercial or retail drivers, fuel tankering to avoid taking on additional petrol using expensive motorway service stations.

    I do not believe any airline would jeopardise safety by loading insufficient fuel for diversions.


    SimonS1
    Participant

    Capetonian: we seem to be at cross purposes here, actually I think your response is really to IanFromHKG’s comments.

    All I am saying is this. The example given by Panorama was a flight to Italy where the plane was fuelled in London for both journeys to save taking on fuel in Italy and saving BA £40.

    Firstly re the comments about diversion due to fuel shortage. Diversionary fuel is set out in EASA regulations (this will give a guide – https://www.flightdeckfriend.com/how-much-fuel-are-aircraft-required-to-carry/). This is completely different to the case here, as it would not have been necessary for the flight to return to London in the event of a diversion.

    Second in this case I doubt your figurework really stacks up. For example no European trips involve compensation of €600 (the maximum on an Italy flight would be €250), also the strong probability is that any diversion would likely be due to factors like ATC or weather in which case the airline wouldn’t pay. And when have you ever known 100% of passengers claim compensation anyway…..

    Of course there may be valid reasons on specific routes (fuel shortage, safety of crew, quality of fuel) but to do it routinely on short haul flights in Europe seems to me just another penny pinching exercise. Pollute the environment to save £40 while putting out some waffle in the paper about green credentials. In fact BA clearly knows it has it wrong here, which is why a review has been launched.


    capetonianm
    Participant

    Capetonian: we seem to be at cross purposes here, actually I think your response is really to IanFromHKG’s comments.

    Yes, Simon, you are correct. I had a rather disruptive day and had cut and pasted the posting into a word document and wrongly attributed the original comment to you.

    I didn’t see the original Panorama programme and my comments were based on longhaul flight operations where for the reasons I outlined the parameters are rather different. My comments are therefore largely invalid in the context of EU flights. Both airlines I worked for were l/h operators.

    The extra fuel burn is roughly 4% per extra kg of fuel carried, and whilst it all adds up, I would suggest that far more fuel is wasted by ATC constraints causing long hold times both in the air and on the ground, maybe this is something that needs to be looked at. It is also time that legislation were introduced to further inhibit unnecessary short flights where alternatives exist eg :
    LHR/MAN 7x returns daily
    ZRH/GVA 8x returns daily

    It may also be that tankering is performed not just to save money but also to reduce turnaround times and try to avoid delays. Whilst it is perfectly possible to refuel an a/c with pax on board, it is not an ideal scenario.

    There are more important concerns about CO2 emissions from aviation and transport in general than this. It’s also something that many people do in their cars, commercial vehicles, and lorries – driving some distance and sitting in a queue to refuel to the brim to save a small amount. Particularly in city driving, there’s quite a lot of fuel wasted to overcome inertia in stop/start driving. So there’s a certain hypocrisy in Panorama ‘exposing’ this practice, but then that’s journalism.


    LuganoPirate
    Participant

    I don’t know about the facts and figures, but I would never start a journey with a half empty tank and I fill my car at the halfway mark just to be safe.
    Since there are no filling stations in the sky, and since falling from 35,000 feet is a lot worse than coasting to a halt, I hope aircraft keep their tanks topped up before every departure – just in case!!!


    SimonS1
    Participant

    I don’t know about the facts and figures, but I would never start a journey with a half empty tank and I fill my car at the halfway mark just to be safe.
    Since there are no filling stations in the sky, and since falling from 35,000 feet is a lot worse than coasting to a halt, I hope aircraft keep their tanks topped up before every departure – just in case!!!

    I don’t really understand the point you are trying to make. Aircraft take off with contingency fuel to get to an alternative landing point. It really isn’t necessary for tanks to be full to the brim every journey.


    Ekond222
    Participant

    …A good insight on fuel burn…

    https://apex.aero/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/APEX-Airline-Fuel.pdf

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