If you’re searching the web, you’ll find hundreds of articles about airlines and fuel efficiency. Articles that focus on process improvements, new aircraft equipment, or entirely new engines and airplanes. And I’m pretty sure that most of the texts provide value and a reasonable approach.

Fuel Efficiency — 10 Benefits Airlines Can Achieve Right Now!

So why another article about airline fuel efficiency? Well, I want to play this very frankly. You won’t find the magic key to fuel efficiency in this article. There’s no hack, no trick. Moreover, I’m convinced that other measures hold more significant potential in terms of fuel efficiency than the one you’ll find here.

The Pandemic Calls For Quick Wins With A Fast ROI

The thing is: Realizing measures that lead to more considerable fuel efficiency —quite often— have one thing in common. All of them require a substantial initial investment. However, we all know that, due to the pandemic situation, airlines’ financial capabilities are quite limited.

But the good news is on the doorstep. Besides the prominent measures, airlines can still implement smaller tweaks. Improvements that probably won’t drive efficiency at the same scale and won’t realize multi-million savings. But improvements that still accounts for substantial savings and an enhanced efficiency — directly and indirectly with a super-fast ROI.

With this blog post, I want to introduce one of those measures —called digital fuel management — and focus on the benefits it brings. 

What’s Digital Fuel Management About?

So here’s the background first. Digital fuel management aims to digitize an airline’s fueling process. That means today’s manual procedures (fuel order, receipt, etc.) are transformed to become all-digital. Accordingly, digital fuel management eliminates manual processes and face-to-face communication.

Therefore, a so-called data distribution platform connects airlines on the side, and fuel provider on the other side. Subsequently, all fuel-related messages are solely exchanged via this platform. Here are some examples:

  • Flight Plans
  • Fuel order
  • Process milestones (order accepted, fueling starts, etc.)
  • Fuel receipt
  • Acknowledgment
  • No Fuel Indicator
  • Etc.

Worth mentioning that digital fuel management is also part of IATA’s Fuel Standard Measures and relies on IATA messaging standard. 

If you want to get more details about the concept here’s a more detailed explanation of digital fuel management.

How Does Digital Fuel Management Drive Airline Fuel Efficiency

The question now is, how does digital fuel management drive an airline’s fuel efficiency? How does it contribute to lean processes and financial savings?

Like many other digital approaches, digitizing an airline’s operational fuel process holds enormous potential. Potential in terms of enhanced efficiency and cost-savings. But I don’t want to leave you with those high-level buzzwords. That’s why I compiled a list of 10 tangible benefits. 

Let’s have a detailed look at the benefits and how digital fuel management drives an airline’s fuel efficiency.

Airline Fuel Efficiency — Here Are The 10 Benefits Digital Fuel Management Brings To The Table

1 — Enhanced Process Efficiency

Process efficiency always sounds good, doesn’t it? But what does it mean in terms of digital fuel management? 

That’s pretty easy to explain. Turnarounds are a critical part of an airline’s operations. And it is no secret that an aircraft only earns money when flying. That’s the reason why every airline is trying to reduce the turnaround time to an utmost minimum.

Digital fuel management reduces the fuel-related process times. Here’s an example: After using digital fuel management for several months, one of our clients (a major European carrier) started to analyze turnaround data. As a result, the airline observed a reduction in fueling-process time of 25%.

To make that very clear: The airline reduced the duration of the entire fueling process by 25%. The illustration below provides a detailed overview of one exemplary flight and shows how the reduction could be achieved.

 Traditional ProcessDigital Fuel Process
8:27Aircraft arrives on blockAircraft arrives on block
8:30Min. Block Fuel received
8:32Truck arrives at aircraftTruck arrives at aircraft
8:40Final Block Fuel Received
8:48Fuel verbally ordered / fuel flow starts
8:52Fueling completed and eTicket generated
8:53Acknoewledgement
9:00Truck leaves aircraft
9:01Fueling finished and delivery slip generated
9:03Signature received
9:11Truck leaves aircraft
44 Minutes33 Minutes

2 — Reduced Workload

That’s probably the most evident benefit of a digital measure. Replacing manual processes with a digital alternative inevitably leads to streamlined and/or eliminated processes. That accounts for operational but also back-office processes. 

Cockpit crew can submit fuel orders much faster than today’s manual process—same accounts for acknowledging fuel receipts. Additionally, there’s no longer a need to forward fuel receipts to the back office manually. 

But also the back-office benefits from a digital electronic fueling process. Forget about the necessity to double-check invoices and uplifts manually.

Indeed, that does not lead to direct savings in terms of fuel costs. Nevertheless, it holds the potential to reduce administrative and operational costs.

3 — Enhanced Quality

When operating a traditional fueling process, the manual work reflects a massive source for mistakes and errors. Especially when it comes to invoicing and receipts. Regularly these documents indicate wrong uplift figures, wrong flight numbers, etc.

As a result, intensive quality checks are necessary at airlines to (hopefully) identify and correct these mistakes. With the implementation of an electronic fueling, an airline achieves two benefits:

  • Due to an immense rise in data quality, there is no longer a need for additional (extensive) quality checks.
  • The risk of wrong invoices and ultimately wrong (too high) payments are eliminated entirely.

4 — Cost Control

Many airlines that are relying on a manual fuel process report the problem of the wrong invoices (see benefit #3). On top of that, there’s always the potential of incorrect payments and, ultimately, loss of money. A digital fuel process, first and foremost, gives you complete control of your costs. Since every piece of data is available digitally, you can eliminate invoice mistakes and the risk of paying too much.

5 — Reduced Fuel Delays

Every delay minutes is real money. That’s why it is so essential for airlines to minimize delays to an absolute minimum. We are fascinated that one of our clients came up with data about the reduction of fuel-related delays after introducing the Electronic Fueling.

Right from the beginning, the airline observed a significant reduction of fuel-related delays. This especially accounts for outstations. And to give you a very tangible example: Before operating the digital fuel process, fuel-related delays accounted for 2% of all delays at AMS airport. From the first day of using Electronic Fueling, the airline observed a constant reduction of these delays.

After operating the platform for one week, the number of fuel-related delays dropped to 0%.  Even more important, the airline maintained this level consistently.

6 — Fuel Efficiency Through Direct Savings 

Many of the benefits listed here improve an airline’s fuel efficiency and indirectly leads to cost savings. However, Electronic Fueling also holds the potential for immediate financial savings. With the No Fuel Indicator function, airlines can achieve substantial savings.

The function enables the cockpit crew to swiftly send messages to the fuel provider, whether refueling is required.

These messages are usually already sent once the aircraft takes off at the departure airport but can be updated while being en-route and finally confirmed once the plane is approaching at the destination airport.

Airline Fuel Efficiency — No Fuel Indicator

But why’s that important and how does that contribute to improved fuel efficiency?

Your fuel provider at an airport automatically sends a fuel truck to the gate or position your aircraft arrives at. And since they don’t have the information they do this regardless of whether refueling is needed. Subsequently, your airline has to pay for the provisioning of the fuel truck. And from a fuel provider’s perspective that entirely makes sense, since they had the effort to send a fuel truck to the position.

So here’s the trick: If the cockpit crew can send a message that refueling isn’t required, the fuel provider does not send a truck to the position. Quite simple, right? Subsequently, your airline isn’t charged for the since the fuel provider hasn’t provided any service.

And to provide some hard facts: By utilizing this simple functionality, airlines can quickly achieve 6 to 7 digit savings annually. Here’s a detailed article about the No Fuel Indicator and how it drives an airline’s fuel efficiency.

7 — Automation Potential

Once an airline operates a digital fuel process, the potential for further automation is just one step away. And again, that accounts for many processes. Operational processes in the cockpit. But also back-office processes when it comes to invoicing, clearing, or even emission trading.

Therefore, an electronic fuel process builds the solid fundament for a whole bunch of further automation and fuel efficiency measures.

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    8 — Fuel Efficiency Through Enhanced Analytics

    Operating a digital fuel process enables airlines to collect a vast amount of data. Data about fuel orders and uplifts but also process-related data (timestamps, etc.). 

    This data reflects a set of information that hasn’t been available so far. Thereby, airlines can execute numerous additional analytical measures to drive efficiency further.

    9 — Reduced Verbal/Manual Interaction (COVID-19)

    This is a benefit that came up with the current pandemic situation but seems essential for many airlines right now. Due to a digital process, airlines eliminate manual and face-to-face processes. Thereby, airlines reduce a potential infection source. From recent talks, we know that this is one of the reasons why IATA is currently pushing airlines to implement digital fueling processes.

    10 — Swift Implementation

    Finally, an essential benefit or part of digital fuel management — and that brings me back to the introduction of this blog post. Implementing an electronic fuel process isn’t a big deal. Indeed, nothing comes for free. But compared to many other fuel efficiency measures, airlines achieve a positive ROI much quicker and without a substantial initial investment.

    What’s Your Opinion On Airline Fuel Efficiency?

    I’m always happy to receive your feedback and have chat on our thoughts. Simply hit me up on Twitter or get in touch with me on LinkedIn.


    Want To Know More About Airline Fuel Efficiency? Here’s Where To Start!

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    Questions on how to set it up at your airline? Have a look here!

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    Benjamin is an information-enthusiast, a content-maniac, and CEO of Information Design (in this order). His daily business revolves around pioneering solutions with the aim to change the way companies use information. His visions are based on expertise gained in more than 15 years in the industry, and working with renowned companies all over the globe.