Qantas says a study that ranked it the worst of 20 airlines operating across the Pacific for fuel efficiency did not accurately reflect all its measures to reduce fuel consumption.
The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) report, entitled TransPacific Airline Fuel Efficiency Ranking, compared the fuel efficiency for 20 major airlines operating from the mainland United States to East Asia and Oceania.
It found that in 2016 Hainan and All Nippon Airways topped the list with an average fuel efficiency of 36 passenger kilometres per litre of fuel, meaning the pair flew one passenger 36km per litre of aviation fuel.
At the other end of the table, Qantas was ranked bottom of all 20 airlines covered with an average fuel efficiency of 22 passenger kilometres per litre of fuel.
However, Qantas said the report was not a true or accurate representation of the airline’s fuel efficiency across the Pacific.
Specifically, the airline said its use of more efficient flightpaths using its Dynamic Airborne Reroute Procedures (DARP) which allowed for inflight adjustments to flightpaths based on updated weather information was not accounted for in the study.
Also, Qantas noted its pilots had developed a flight data application, FlightPulse, that was unveiled in September 2017, and established a biofuel partnerships in both Australia and the US to support the development of renewable jetfuel production.
Qantas head of fuel and environment Alan Milne said the airline was committed to reducing carbon emissions and continually looked at ways to lower them across its operations.
“The reason Qantas ranks low in this study is chiefly because we use larger aircraft, fly very long distances and have premium cabins that naturally have fewer people on board,” Milne said in a statement.
“Our Sydney to Dallas route is one of the longest in the world, and ultra-long haul flights have a magnifying effect on fuel burn because you’re carrying a lot of weight [in the form of fuel] at the start of the journey in order to make the distance.
“We are switching our 747s for more fuel efficient Dreamliners and we have several data-driven programs in place to reduce fuel burn.”
The ICCT report noted Qantas had the longest average stage length, the lowest average passenger load factor of any airline and one of the lowest freight shares at 12 per cent of total payload.
It estimated that if Qantas maintained the same load factor and freight share on its trans-Pacific flight on its new 787-9s the carrier’s overall fuel efficiency would increase to 28 passenger kilometres per litre.
Qantas currently has 10 Boeing 747s in its fleet, comprising comprising six GE-powered 747-400ERs (VH-OEE thru OEJ) delivered between 2002 and 2003, a single GE-powered 747-48E (VH-OEB, built for Asiana in 1993 and acquired by Qantas in 1998) and three RR-powered 747-438s (VH-OJS, OJT and OJU) delivered in 1999-2000.
The oneworld alliance member has taken delivery of two Boeing 787-9s, with a further two to arrive by March 2018, allowing for the commencement on Perth-London Heathrow nonstop flights.
Qantas told the financial community during an investor presentation in May 2017 the arrival of the first four 787-9s would allow for the retirement of two 747s. The first of those two, VH-OJM, was withdrawn in July 2017 and ferried to Mojave Airport for storage.
Meanwhile, the airline planned to withdraw three more 747s as it takes delivery of four more 787-9s between July and November 2018 to be based in Brisbane.
Qantas flies Airbus A380s from Sydney to Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth, as well as on the Melbourne-Los Angeles route, offering first, business, premium economy and economy.
It also operates Boeing 747-400/400ERs on Brisbane-Los Angeles, Sydney-San Francisco, Sydney-Santiago and Los Angeles-New York JFK. These aircraft have a three-class configuration with business, premium economy and economy.
The report said the findings took in both passenger and cargo being carried on trans-Pacific services.
“Hainan and ANA achieved the same overall fuel efficiency using very different strategies,” the report said.
“Hainan’s efficiency rating mostly reflected its very advanced fleet, as 81 per cent of its available seat kilometres were aboard Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
“ANA, in contrast, operated aircraft with higher fuel burn but carried more payload, especially cargo. ANA carried about three times as much belly freight per passenger as Hainan, equaling 48 per cent of total payload carried.
“Overall, airlines with more fuel-efficient aircraft, less premium seating, and higher passenger and freight load factors operated more fuel-efficient flights.”
The report ranked Air New Zealand third with 35 passenger kilometres per litre of fuel, while Virgin Australia tied for sixth alongside American Airlines and Fiji Airways at 33 passenger kilometres per litre of fuel.
The aviation sector has committed to reducing its carbon emissions between now and 2050.
In October 2016, an overwhelming majority of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) 191 member states agreed to the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
The landmark agreement has among its targets for the industry to achieve carbon neutral growth by 2020, and a 50 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, compared with 2005 levels.
ICAO has also come up with a CO2 emissions standard, where aircraft will have to meet a maximum fuel burn per flight kilometre baseline which must not be exceeded. The standard would apply to new aircraft designs from 2020, while new deliveries of current in-production aircraft models would be subject to the CO2 standard from 2023.
Further, the ICAO measure also recommended a cut-off date of 2028 for production aircraft that did not comply with the standard.
Moreover, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has set a target of an average improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5 per cent per year from 2009 to 2020, as well as aspirations to build an aircraft that produced no emissions within 50 years.
Figures from IATA Showed air transport accounted for about two per cent of global man-made CO2 emissions. The figure has been relatively constant over the past 20 years and was not expected to increase beyond three per cent by 2050.