UK airline, British Airways is overhauling its airport ground support equipment at London Heathrow Airport (LHR) through a multi-million-pound investment to reduce emissions.

With this investment, more than 90 percent of British Airways’ vehicles and ground equipment at Heathrow now operate with zero emissions, hybrid power, or hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) fuel.

This includes more than 750 pieces of equipment ranging from aircraft de-icing vehicles to baggage-loading devices that are now powered by HVO rather than diesel fuel. For this equipment, HVO will be used as an interim measure while the airline gradually transitions to zero-emission and hybrid models over 2024 and 2025.

The HVO used by British Airlines is supplied by Phillips 66, which also provides it with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for aircraft. The use of HVO is expected to save more than 6,000 tonnes of CO2 per year compared to traditional diesel fuel. This is the equivalent of more than 8,000 round-trip economy passenger journeys between Heathrow and JFK.

These improvements form part of the airline's array of new initiatives under its £7 billion investment plan to transform the business over the next three years
These improvements form part of the airline’s array of new initiatives under its £7 billion investment plan to transform the business over the next three years

Meanwhile, the airline is working to gradually replace existing equipment with more sustainable models throughout 2024 and 2025. For example, it is replacing all diesel-powered passenger aircraft steps with electric alternatives. This change could reduce fuel consumption by more than 370 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, with many of the new electric steps set to be in full service by the end of this year.

It will also introduce 135 new electric baggage tugs, accounting for 40 percent of the airline’s tugs. These vehicles will feature improved battery and charging technology using highly efficient lithium-ion technology. This technology uses less energy and produces 30% less C02 when in use compared to traditional lead acid batteries.

What’s more, British Airways is phasing out its fleet of 20 diesel-powered vehicles which load and unload cargo containers onto aircraft. These vehicles will be replaced with hybrid electric models.

In addition, the airline is transitioning towards a full fleet of electric and hybrid passenger buses at Heathrow by phasing out all 38 diesel models. Over the next two years, 23 of the buses are expected to be fully electric, while the remaining 15 will operate on HVO fuel. To support these operations, a large charging park is now in the early stages of development. This initiative is expected to save 800 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, while also helping to reduce negative air quality impacts around the Heathrow area.

Tom Moran, British Airways’ Director of Heathrow, said:

At British Airways, we are committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner and our focus isn’t just about reducing emissions in the air, but on the ground too. This major investment into our vehicles at Heathrow is our largest investment in more sustainable airport ground operations to date and is part of our wider environmental objective to minimise emissions from our airside ground operation. We’re proud of the work we are doing in this space and are excited to continue improving the running of our ground operations at Heathrow.

These improvements are part of the airline’s 7 billion GBP investment plan to transform the business over the next three years.

They also build on previous ground improvements made by the airline at Heathrow, such as the introduction of electric and hybrid cars for airside operations, using remote-controlled pushback vehicles called Mototoks, and ensuring aircraft plug into electricity at Heathrow when on the stand.

Carrie Harris, British Airways’ Director of Sustainability said:

I am incredibly proud of this project, which has been driven by our Heathrow ground operations teams and encapsulates our BA Better World ethos of raising awareness of our strategy to all of our colleagues, and inspiring them to play a part in minimising our environmental impact where possible. Their energy, enthusiasm and innovative approach in bringing the project to life shows what can be achieved and this investment demonstrates our ongoing commitment to making improvements across our business that will benefit both our customers and colleagues.


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