How Retracting Landing Lights Saved Aer Lingus 570t Of CO2

IAG, the parent company of British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus, has revealed a surprising CO2 reduction by its use of retractable landing lights. Throughout 2018, Aer Lingus reduced its CO2 output by 570 tonnes through this measure alone.

Aer Lingus jet on ground at night
Aer Lingus favors a modern Airbus fleet for its fuel efficiency and cleanliness. Photo: Aer Lingus

International Airlines Group (IAG) revealed this month a reduction in CO2 emissions of Aer Lingus, one of its eight subsidiaries. The company cited the Irish carrier’s 570 tonne “saving” as evidence of the success of IAG’s four-pronged approach to reducing fleet carbon emissions.

According to figures published in IAG’s Company Market Day report, Aer Lingus’s use of retracting landing lights makes the airline cleaner. While only a drop in the ocean of the 364 million tonnes of CO2 produced by the UK in the same year, the reduction is nonetheless worthy.

We have contacted Aer Lingus for further comment.

IAG’s environmental objectives

IAG’s “climate targets” consist of four models: Fleet and operations, sustainable aviation fuels, disruptive innovation and carbon offsets.

Of the first model, “fleet and operations”, the company will:

  • Equip its subsidiaries with 142 new aircraft by 2023 including A320neo and A350, up to 25 to 40% more efficient than aircraft they replace.
  • Continue to incorporate carbon prices into fleet planning decisions.
  • Investment in industry-leading fuel efficiency software.
BA A321 in flight
IAG making headway to reduce emissions but still falls behind other companies. Photo: BA

Of its 2018 intention to cut carbon emissions IAG appears to have succeeded, at least by its own analysis:

  • Vueling cut CO2 emissions by 1,000 tonnes by retrofitting passenger seats made of lighter components.
  • Iberia cut CO2 emissions by 200 tonnes by making adjustments to onboard water use.
  • BA made 7,000 tonnes of CO2 “savings” by adjusting flight plans.

Of the most surprising stats, however, was the intrinsic reduction made by Aer Lingus due to its use of retractable landing lights.

Light savings

IAG continues to invest in the expansion and modernization of the Aer Lingus fleet. The most recent purchase was of six A321XLRs at this year’s Paris Air Show to be delivered by 2023. Those planes are slated to replace the aging B757-200s of which Aer Lingus has two.

The A320 Family, 40 of which are in service with Aer Lingus, are fitted with retractable landing lights. To be able to “hide” the landing lights during flight means commensurate drag is reduced sufficiently to yield power savings and reduce CO2 emission.

Aer Lingus boss with jet in background
Aer Lingus’s fleet is being modernized, slowly. Photo: Aer Lingus

Airlines and the environment

IAG is still one of only a small vanguard of companies making efforts to minimize carbon emissions. Yet even it is being urged to step up its efforts. British Airways was at the end of last year still placed at 74th in the Atmosfair Index with an efficiency rating of D. It found itself lagging behind companies such as Aeroflot and Alitalia.

The reduction of emissions by adjustments to flying practices and variations to hardware is admirable. But there is only so much these relatively small tweaks can provide.

Despite the commercial hype, IAG’s investment in the newest aircraft models such as the B787-9 and A350-900 is still lacking. Furthermore, the company’s hesitancy to buy rolling stock that provides the most efficient fuel savings and clean running is seen by other global providers.