Panorama investigation looks at the practice of fuel tankering

A BBC Panorama investigation  into fuel tankering, the practice of filling aircraft with extra fuel to avoid having to refuel at destinations that have a higher fuel charge, has claimed that they have seen documents which show that up to six tonnes of extra fuel can be loaded onto a plane per flight. BA confirmed that it emitted 18000 tonnes of additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, last year, by indulging in this cost saving practice.

According to Panorama, a recent BA flight to Italy took three extra tonnes of fuel leading to an added 600 kg of carbon dioxide emission whilst only saving £40 in costs.

BA told the BBC that fuel tankering is standard practice within the industry to carry additional fuel due to operational, safety and price reasons. The industry-wide practice could mean extra annual emissions equivalent to a large European city.[1]  Whilst admitting that they sometimes indulge in fuel tankering to save money – such as when flying to Glasgow where fuel prices are 25% more expensive than Heathrow, they reasoned that fuel tankering was sometimes important for operational reasons and to save time. BBC Panorama states that for BA, fuel tankering applies largely to only short haul destinations where there are considerable fuel price differences between European airports.

The U.K. is currently a part of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).[2] The EU ETS is a form of carbon pricing known as a ‘cap and trade scheme’ in which a limit on emissions is set and divided up into allowances, each equal to one tonne of CO2. Each year businesses must surrender sufficient allowances to match their emissions, with large fines imposed on those who do not. BA has committed to reducing carbon emissions by investing in new technologies and sustainable bio-jet fuels[3]. John Sauven, Greenpeace UK’s executive director has suggested the need for government-enforced reduction targets to ensure airlines take responsibility for the damage their emissions are causing. Eurocontrol, the body that coordinates air traffic control for Europe, has estimated that tankering in Europe produces an additional of 901,000 tonnes of CO2. BA have stated that they will carry out a review of its fuel tankering practices and CO2 emissions and has also ensured to offset all CO2 emissions from its UK domestic flights in accordance with the EU ETS by 2020.

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