Fuel Efficiency Consulting, save your airline!

Over the years, I have met with or worked with the majority of Airline Fuel Efficiency experts in the world. In a Fuel Efficiency Consulting session, we structure the

Fuel Efficiency Consulting can look into many initiatives and it can structure a program with realistic targets
Fuel Efficiency Consulting can look into many initiatives and it can structure a program with realistic targets

If you don’t have a program running with most of the above initiative tackled. Then seeking help might not be a bad idea. Only if you have measurable data and continuous monitoring, can we consider an initiative tackled.

Do we need Fuel Efficiency Consulting?

There are not many new ideas in this domain. So, the majority of Airlines believe they have already set up the needed initiatives to manage their fuel consumption.

However, in all the cases I have sat down with airline staff and fuel management teams in a Fuel Efficiency Consulting session or workshop, I noticed things that can be grouped into five categories:

Prioritization of efforts in Fuel Efficiency Consulting

It is common to see many practitioners of fuel efficiency waste time and resources on trying to get results on a few initiatives and in the process losing so much potential. It is commonsense to use and Benefit/Effort matrix like the one below. But the real trick lies in correctly measuring something subjective as effort and plotting it versus a sensible benefit target

Quick wins and low hanging fruits in Fuel Efficiency for Airlines are usually one of the important deliverables from a Consulting
A prioritization exercise can maximize the return on investment by focusing resources on initiatives that are low-effort but have high potential

Data Issues

Fuel Efficiency Consulting is an exercise in trust and discipline. One airline I worked with had manual data entry for fuel figures on the airplane. We had a spotted a 3% discrepancy in fuel burn. Needless to say, that is massive

This was easy to spot because the resolution of the FQI (Fuel Quantity Indicator) for that Aircraft was in 20 Kgs increment, but the Flight Planning system resolution requested fuel to the resolution of 10 Kgs. For example: The planned fuel was 12,310 Kgs. Knowing the type of aircraft you would expect it to be loaded with 12,300 or 12,320. The FQI can not show 12,310 as a matter of technical capability. However, I saw entries that showed 12,310.

When I received the sheet of loaded fuel versus planned fuel, it showed more than 50 flights on the same day loaded with the exact same fuel that was planned. Technical knowledge and experience will let you know that this was an impossibility.

Additionally, that same type of aircraft has a selector resolution of 100 Kgs, for the above example, you can only refuel select 12.3 Tons or 12.4 Tons. The crews and engineers were logging 12,310. So how did the crew and engineers do that? At the risk of using an overused word. There was collusion.

A check with finance to showed that the airline had paid for 100% of their fuel (naturally) but only consumed 97% of it. Their fuel manager was deeply distressed to say the least.

I always encourage automated data, when possible. Manual entry of data might still have a place in 2020, however, it is important to identify the correct process and safeguards in order to make sure that the data is legible, usable and correct.

Assumption errors

There are very few things that we should take for granted in our search for efficiency. The majority of things need to be measurable. Passenger weight need to be measured rather than assumed. Brakes are note necessarily cheaper that using reverse fuel, they might be, but unless it is measured and studied. We should not use it.

If you or someone you work with uses figures because they heard them or read them somewhere, then you know, you are missing out on saving. I worked with an airline that assumed Heathrow Airport has an average holding time of 30 minutes. It made sense to them and they loaded that fuel on every departure to Heathrow. That was a bad assumption to make

Another Airline heard that 35 is a good number for a Cost Index, they saw it in some manufacturer publications that are 10 years old and didn’t get to validate it. Needless to say, they didn’t have a valid cost of time.

“In this analysis, we assumed a CoW (Cost of Weight) of 3% per hour” Unless the presenter can answer why s/he assumed that without saying the words: “We heard” or “It made sense,” you need to give them a hard time.

Fad errors (lack of enforcement)

Many of the initiative that are implemented in any airline only last six months to a year. Then people tend to revert back to default.

One morning, I sat having my coffee in a hotel that overlooked the ramp of an airport. I was on an Fuel Efficiency Consulting trip and the host airline’s aircraft where right there getting ready for the morning push. One by one, the engineers where starting the APUs of the aircraft on the ramp. By the time I had my breakfast and coffee, I noticed that crews were arriving on the aircraft. The APUs ran for at least 15 minutes before the crews arrived and 30 more until the aircraft departed. 45 minutes of APU fuel burn and it was a very nice spring day.

Later that day, I sat down with an executive in the host airline and the fuel manager was there. I asked him if he knew what his average APU time per sector was? He confidently told me that he didn’t have the last data, but that it was 15 minutes last year.

Something slipped from underneath this managers hands, he later realized that the number was much higher. That is mainly because his “fuel initiatives” were considered by the crew and engineers to be a project or a fad. Something that is temporary and will be concluded.

You should be able to drive people to revert to the efficient operation and only need to leave it in case of a special case.

Inconsistent Tools and Processes

A consistent report for the above initiative (APU hours/sector) generated on a fixed interval, could have anticipated the above problem. It is easy to think that something is done, because you saw results from it. The sheer volume of work that needs to be done, makes it easily to skip a follow-up here or there.

In order to achieve the maximum result, Fuel Efficiency has to become part of the processes and procedures of everyone involved. This need to start with support from the higher management and to trickle down to the whole operation.

This will mean a need to engage the fuel suppliers, Air Traffic Control, terminal operations and sometimes beyond those. If you aren’t actively pursuing that, then you are missing out.

A good fuel efficiency “steering committee” can have 5-6 people but can usually grow to 15 or more people depending on the complexity of the operation and how far behind they are.

Do you think you need a fuel efficiency consulting?

Check if you have the answer for these questions and then you tell me:

-Is your cost of time frequently updated and granulated enough to benefit the airline?
-What is your average discretionary fuel? Does it change in a heat wave? Does it change when a weather system affects your operation?
-What is the percentage of flights with reduced flaps? Idle reverse? No Alternate? Is it calculated per fleet? Is it below 70%?
-Your taxi fuel, is calculated based on single-engine, what percentile?

I have another post on the same subject, with another set of questions. I would love to hear from you and have a conversation about this.