Air New Zealand makes the switch

To further improve fuel efficiency, Air New Zealand has turned to electricity to power its aircraft while on airport gates.
4 October 2017

The move is expected to reduce carbon emissions by more than 4,500 tonnes each year.

Traditionally onboard systems like air conditioning and lighting are powered by an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), a small jet engine in the tail of an aircraft, when on the ground. This however consumes jet fuel and generates carbon emissions.

Now APUs are increasingly being switched off with aircraft being plugged directly into electrical power at gates at both Auckland and Christchurch International Airports.

In the first month of trialling this new process in Auckland with just its Boeing 777 and 787-9 long-haul fleets, the airline saved 475,000kg of carbon and 188,000 litres of fuel - more than the volume of fuel required to fly a Boeing 777-300 from Auckland to Los Angeles.

Air New Zealand Head of Sustainability Lisa Daniell says, "Reducing our carbon emissions is a key goal under our Sustainability Framework and it’s fantastic to collaborate with our airport partners on this particular initiative which will significantly allow us to cut down APU usage and reduce emissions while our aircraft are on the ground. The key priority in the year ahead will be getting more of our fleet onto ground power," says Ms Daniell.

The airline has been working closely with both Auckland and Christchurch International Airports to ensure ground infrastructure is compatible with aircraft systems and processes are aligned. All wide-body jet aircraft are now using ground power when on gates in Auckland while domestic jets are currently plugging into electricity in Christchurch. The airline is also currently in talks with Wellington Airport to adopt similar processes.

Better utilising ground power is just one initiative Air New Zealand has in place to reduce carbon emissions and improve fuel efficiency. The airline is also continuing to invest in a modern fleet and reduce weight onboard its aircraft, as well as transitioning its ground service equipment at airports to electric options where operationally feasible. The airline has already completed the transition of more than 75 vehicles in its light vehicle fleet to electric models.