Whistleblower claims British Airways guilty of ‘fuel tankering’ practice

Fuel tankering involves adding extra fuel to planes to save on refuelling costs, resulting in increased weight and higher emissions

Pathway to COP26 report

British Airways deliberately adds extra fuel to planes to save money on refuelling, resulting in increased weight and higher emissions.

That’s the claim from a British Airways whistleblower, who reportedly told BBC Panorama the aviation giant is one of several companies that takes part in the industry-wide practice of ‘fuel tankering’, which aims to avoid paying higher prices for refuelling at destination airports.

BBC Panorama claims the airline’s planes generated an extra 18,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide last year by carrying extra fuel and suggests cost savings can range from as small as £10 up to ‘several hundred pounds’.

The BBC suggests a fifth of all European flights involve fuel tankering to some extent and claims that across the continent, this could generate additional annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that produced by a town of 100,000 people.

The whistleblower said airlines use software to calculate whether cost savings can be made for each flight, with extra fuel being loaded onto planes if this is the case.

In its report, the BBC refers to fuel bunkering on a specific British Airways flight to Italy, in which it says the extra weight meant the plane emitted more than 600kg of additional carbon dioxide , despite only saving less than £40.

British Airways 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 carbon dioxide emissions from British Airways represents approximately 2% of the total extra emissions generated by all airlines tankering fuel in Europe. The practice contributes less than 0.1% 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 carbon dioxide emissions from its UK domestic flights.”

Latest Podcast