What is fuel tankering?
‘Tankering’ is when an aircraft carries additional fuel for a flight to avoid refuelling when landing at the destination. The practice of tankering is purely a cost-saving initiative and the additional fuel is not considered necessary for the purpose of the flight.
An airline will frequently take ‘round trip fuel’ to ensure the plane lands with enough fuel to fly back home again.
Why is that bad?
The additional fuel carried when undertaking a ‘tankering’ flight increases the total weight of the aircraft, and therefore increases its fuel consumption, resulting in additional CO2 emissions. These CO2 emissions are completely avoidable, but exist purely because the airlines seek to take advantage of differing fuel prices.
How much do they save?
Fuel costs vary quite significantly across European destinations, with some airports offering fuel as much as 30% cheaper. This can result in significant savings for the airlines, where fuel costs account for up to 25% of their operating expenses.
However at the other end of the scale, many airlines will tanker fuel even if the total savings are as low as £30. This could mean a flight which takes round-trip fuel could emit over a tonne of CO2, just to save a few pounds.
How often does this take place?
Studies have shown that within the EU approximately 15% of flights are tankering fuel to their destinations. After extrapolating these figures it can be shown that over 286,000 tonnes of additional fuel is burnt each year, producing just under 1 million tonnes of CO2.
It should be noted that tankering fuel does not affect the safety of a flight, nor is it a regulatory requirement, it exists solely to take advantage of a price differences.
Aviation is a huge competitive market, with airlines doing everything in their power to minimise their operating costs to keep their ticket prices as low as possible. Reducing costs is a major challenge for the industry but they’re also under increasing pressure to reduce their environmental footprint.
Here at Zero Impact Adventures we believe the time has come for this extremely environmentally damaging practice to be made illegal across the industry.
For more information about Tankering, please take a look at our FAQ which may answer some of your questions on the subject