Though world fuel prices are easing, SriLankan Airlines is projecting a fuel bill of US$ 500 million for the current year at present prices, which accounts for approximately 50% of its overall costs, the airline said this week.
The price of a barrel of crude oil has surged 85% during the last 12 months and reached a high of $143 in July this year from last year’s $75 and now is seen falling. “Fuel is our biggest cost factor by far. While we are significantly reducing costs throughout the airline, we know that even a small saving in the amount of fuel consumed on every flight will result in savings in hundreds of millions of rupees,” said S.A. Chandrasekera, Chief Financial Officer, in a press release issued by the airline.
The airline says it is focusing on sharply reducing its fuel usage to counter the challenge posed by high global oil prices. A series of fuel-saving measures has already been implemented, while more will be put in place within weeks.
“The global airline industry is undergoing its biggest ever crisis due to the steep increases in the price of aviation fuel. Larger airlines are suffering losses and many smaller ones are going out of business. SriLankan is taking this challenge head on,” Mr Chandrasekera said.
SriLankan recently invited a team of experts in fuel efficiency from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), who conducted an in-depth study and recommended detailed measures. The airline has appointed a special committee to implement the proposals and enhance them wherever possible.
“We are not satisfied with simply following IATA’S recommendations. We have already added a large number of our own initiatives, and are tailoring the IATA suggestions to suit the requirements of our airline,” said Captain Anushad Liyanagoda, who was recently appointed to the newly created post of Manager Aviation Fuel.
The airline has already come up with several imaginative methods to reduce fuel consumption, and is quantifying the amount of savings from every one of them. One of these is “RNAV Approaches”, where aircraft make continuous descent approaches into Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). Discussions have been held with the Civil Aviation Authority and air traffic controllers to implement this programme, which would save 100-200 kilogrammes of fuel on every landing.
Another measure already implemented is to use diesel-powered Ground Power Units to supply power to internal systems and air-conditioning on all aircraft while they are parked at BIA, instead of using Auxiliary Power Units of the aircraft themselves, which use aviation fuel. This move is saving 130 – 200 kg of aviation fuel per hour.
Other initiatives include “Flap 3” landings; single engine taxi between terminals and runways; minimised use of reverse thrust during landings; flying shorter routes whenever possible; and re-evaluation of the airline’s choice of alternate airports. There is also a new Re-despatch Procedure, which is saving approx 1,200 kg of fuel on every flight from Europe to Colombo; and all flights are being closely monitored to obtain maximum usage of tail winds.