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By (Scott) Yuanfei Zhao, Senior Aviation Analyst at Cirium Ascend Consultancy
According to aircraft OEMs, and as quoted and widely reported by different media, new generation aircraft are “typically 15-20% more fuel-efficient than their predecessors”, namely the Max vs NG, and neo vs ceo. The rhetorical 15-20% fuel efficiency is theoretical and can only be achieved under set conditions.
Calculating aircraft fuel burn accurately is challenging since fuel burn can be affected by various operational factors such as block distance, taxi time, seating layouts and the operating environment.
These challenges are addressed in Cirium’s Global Aircraft Emissions Monitor model. This model combines specialist knowledge on aircraft performance and fuel consumption, supported by some of the most comprehensive in-house datasets, to provide the best possible accuracy in calculating fuel burn and CO2 emission for the global fleet. In this article, we will be focusing on fuel burn performance based on data from this emissions monitor model.
The insights can be analyzed in an array of ways. For instance, the data can compare fuel performance between 737 Max and 737 NG, and A320neo and A320ceo. To put this into a better perspective, we have selected a group of airlines from several major aviation markets that operate both old and new generation aircraft, and thus comparisons on fuel efficiency can be made between these airlines’ old and new generation fleet. Data analyzed is based on all flights tracked between 15th June and 30th June.
As shown in the above chart, fuel efficiency improves by some 10-13% on the Max fleet compared with the NG fleet for most airlines. It is noticeable that the fuel efficiency improvement between the Max and the NG for T’Way Air is higher than the average sample level.
Flight distance data for all flights tracked between 15th June and 30th June flown by the sample airlines was also analyzed as a means to understand the cause of the discrepancies. It was found that the average flight distance per aircraft of the Max fleet of T’Way Air is more than two and half times longer than the NG fleet, which is the largest average flight distance difference between MAX and NG among all sample airlines.
In other examples, the average flight distance per aircraft of the Max fleet of Turkish Airlines is more than two times longer than the NG fleet, while the same is 60% for Ethiopian Airlines. The comparison for Korean Air is in the opposite position where its NG fleet is more than 60% longer than its MAX fleet. Nonetheless, the fuel burn deltas for these airlines are just within the average level.
On the Airbus side, fuel efficiency improves by some 14-17% on the neo fleet compared with the ceo fleet for the most airlines. It is noticeable that the fuel efficiency improvement between the neo and the ceo is generally bigger than that of the MAX and the NG. In order to understand the potential cause, the average flight distance data was also analyzed for the Airbus sample airlines.
It was found that the largest difference between the neo and the ceo fleet in terms of average flight distance comes from Air India, whose neo fleet flying some 54% longer route distance than the ceo fleet on average.
Overall, the average flight distance of the Max fleet is over 1,750km and 1,350km for the NG fleet for the Boeing sample airlines, whereas the average flight distance of the neo fleet is over 1,350km while just over 1,200km for the ceo fleet for the Airbus sample airlines. The average fuel burn per aircraft measured by tonne per flight hour for the Max and the NG are 2.16 and 2.45 respectively, with an average of 13% improvement on fuel efficiency for the Max. For neo and ceo, the numbers are 2.09 and 2.47 respectively, with an average of 18% improvement for the neo.
Intuitively, it seems that Airbus has achieved better fuel efficiency improvement on its new generation aircraft against its old generation aircraft when compared with Boeing. The key factor in Airbus winning the fuel efficiency comparison under the scenario of this analysis came from its new generation neo where it appears some 3.3% more fuel efficient that the Max.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Airbus neo is definitely more fuel efficient than the Boeing Max.
Other factors such as seating layout, load factors and the significantly longer sector lengths for the Max need to be considered and analyzed as well.
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