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Managing our fuel: On time performance and fuel efficiency

Chris Foster, Flight Operations Manager at easyJet

As well as active Line Captain & Line Training Captain 

Fuel makes up 32% of our cost base at easyJet. That’s costing us close to £1bn a year!  As a low-cost carrier it’s no surprise that managing our fuel efficiently is critical to our operation.

Like some other airlines, we hedge up to 85% of our fuel as a way of managing the risk of fluctuating fuel prices. This suits our business model, as we are able to set budgets and forecast further in advance, helping us keep a close eye on our costs. Other airlines are surviving on the current low cost of fuel, which is at a 12-year low, but this way of operating may not be sustainable in the future. We also have one of the world’s youngest fleets, with an average aircraft age of only 6.5 years, which helps keep our operation as efficient as possible. In 2013, easyJet confirmed an order for 100 new generation Airbus A320neo aircraft, which will be up to 15% more fuel efficient than existing aircraft types.

It’s the Captain’s legal responsibility to determine the fuel for each sector, including at least a minimum requirement which is laid down clearly in regulations and in our fuel policy. Often, an additional amount of ‘extra’ fuel will be carried in the winter months to mitigate the risk of delays driven by bad weather, which is very common when flying in Europe. 

Every 200kg of fuel carried that is not required costs us up to £2.5m a year, so it is important that Captain’s consider the most appropriate amount of fuel to carry on each flight. Historic statistical data is also available to support their fuel decisions.

My role supports many lean initiatives at easyJet. Safety is always our number one priority, but for me, efficiency is a close second, as I am clearly focussed on enhancing operational best-practices and ensuring regulatory compliance; both of which have a direct impact on our fuel usage and also on our on-time-performance (OTP) which is a key part of our strategy.

OTP vs. fuel efficiency is a constant balancing act of two opposing sides. As a point to point carrier, we are bound by specific flight times in every airport that we serve. At some airports we have had to fight hard for the specific slots that best suit our passenger’s needs, for example, at a time that can get our business passengers from London to Paris in time for their early morning meeting. We see greater commercial success on certain city pairs, meaning that sometimes we have to spend more on fuel consumption on these flights, mitigating the risk of delays at either end to protect our OTP. We also have to balance the amount of fuel we burn depending on how long the flight time is. Essentially it’s determined by the operating costs of the aircraft and the cost of fuel at each of the 150 airports we fly to. And you thought this was simple…

 At easyJet, innovation is also key to our success. We have an on-going programme to reduce emissions and increase fuel efficiency, which has resulted in the introduction of lightweight Recaro seats that have made each aircraft almost 600kg lighter, ‘Sharklet’ wingtips, which deliver up to 4% savings in fuel consumptions and consequent CO2 emissions and Toughpads, which replaced laptops and printed navigational charts in the cockpit, which equates to the reduction of 27kg of paper per flight (that’s a reduction of over 1,900 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year). 

Other than new technology, we perfect our practices in order to operate more efficiently. Our maintenance programme washes the engines compressors routinely to restore performance and ensure they operate as efficiently as possible. easyJet’s pilots have implemented measures to save fuel whilst still operating the aircraft safely, such as one engine taxiing, delayed engine starts, continuous descent approached and minimum use of the auxiliary power unit when on the ground. Also, a change in the flap setting used for landings has improved fuel efficiency and reduced noise levels at landing.

We are committed to continuously finding new ways of increasing fuel efficiency, reducing carbon emissions and increasing our on-time-performance, so that we can continue to make travel easy and affordable for our customers.

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