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Published on Monday, November 11, 2019

BA to review use of fuel tankering

British Airways owner International Airlines Group has indicated it will review the practice of fuel tankering.

Monday night's BBC Panorama programme, Can Flying Go Green? programme reported IAG chief executive Willie Walsh thinks the practice may be wrong and it will be reviewed.

He told investors financial sustainability should not be incentivised at the detriment of environmental sustainability.

As highlighted on the Panorama programme, tankering describes the process of airlines taking on extra fuel than needed, either to save money when it's more expensive elsewhere in Europe or at time when it is operationally deemed necessary.

BA is not the only airline that carries out fuel tankering. However, an insider said BA was 'hypocritical' because it makes much of its commitment to be a leading advocate of sustainable travel. 

The insider blew the whistle because he said the practice was at odds with BA's commitment - and that of the industry in general - to cut carbon emissions.

BA said it was common industry practice.

However, in a recording of an address to investors last week, which was played on Radio 4's PM programme on Monday, Walsh indicated the practice needed reviewing.

In the recording he said: "We are looking at incentivising managers to ensure we are not incentivising the wrong behaviour because clearly the financial saving would have incentivised us just to do fuel tankering.

"But maybe that's the wrong thing to do and the wrong way to incentivise, so we want to make sure we have our incentives aligned to the right activities to ensure financial sustainability but also to ensure environmental sustainability."

BBC chief environment correspondent Justin Rowlatt, who presented the Panorama programme, told PM: "As this story shows, sometimes saving money can have a negative impact, in this case, on the environment and it all adds up.

"Europe-wide tankering adds up to a lot of extra emissions - an estimated 900,000 tons [per year]. To put that in perspective, it's about the same as the annual emissions from a European town of 100,000 people."

Justin Francis, founder and CEO of Responsible Travel, called on governments to intervene to make airlines more accountable.

He said:  "We see many airlines turning to carbon offsets as a cynical greenwashing ploy: offsets don't work and they delay innovation and investment in cleaner technology.

"What we need - and urgently - is carbon reduction, and that involves investment, which airlines are failing to commit to.

"Airline lip service to reforms has to be challenged. The polluter must pay principle has to apply and we need concrete proposals for effective reforms, through government intervention."


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