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Airline reviews excess fuel policy over emission backlash

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The practice of filling planes with extra fuel to avoid paying higher prices for refueling at destination airports is now been reviewed by British Airways against the backlash of carbon emissions. The industry-wide practice – known as fuel tankering – can save airlines money but drives up carbon emissions.

It is reported that British Airways churned out an extra 18,000 tonnes of CO2 through carrying extra fuel last year – the equivalent of a large town’s annual emissions. This figure came to light during a BBC Panorama investigation. The team received some of the information about the practice of fuel tankering from a British Airways insider.

According to the BBC, documents seen by its Panorama team showed that on a recent flight from London to Italy, an extra three tonnes of fuel were loaded, leading to an added 600kg of carbon emissions. But it is reported that the saving for the carrier was just £40. Chief Executive of BA’s parent company, IAG, Willie Walsh, admitted that the practice was “maybe the wrong thing to do”, and said it would be reviewed.

“We continue to do tankering today. We’re challenging that, we’re asking ourselves whether this is sustainable and whether we should be pricing in the environmental impact of that.”The airline also points out that extra fuel is carried for reasons other than cost-saving. For instance, if an airport is remote, extra fuel is carried as a contingency in case of a diversion.

A British Airways spokesman said: “It’s common practice across the airline industry to carry additional fuel on some flights due to operational, safety and price reasons.“For British Airways this applies to mainly short-haul destinations where there are considerable fuel price differences between European airports.

“Based on research published by Eurocontrol’s Aviation Intelligence Unit, the additional CO2 emissions from British Airways represent approximately two percent of the total extra emissions generated by all airlines tankering fuel in Europe. The practice contributes less than 0.1 percent of the airline’s total carbon emissions.​“Since 2012, flights within Europe are covered by the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS) and from 2020 British Airways will offset all CO2 emissions from its UK domestic flights.”

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