easyJet’s electric vision to decarbonise and reduce noise from aviation operations

European low-fare carrier easyJet is to collaborate with Wright Electric to build and operate the first electric short haul aircraft from around ten years from now as part of a series of initiatives to progressively decarbonise and reduce noise from aviation operations.

US-based Wright Electric already has a two seater plane which is able to demonstrate how the technology works, but it will now scale this technology up to a ten seater aircraft and eventually within a decade to a single aisle short haul commercial plane. easyJet says the target range for the aircraft will be 330 miles/530 kilometres which would enable it to operate routes such as from London to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Cologne, Glasgow and Edinburgh; or from Geneva to Paris, Nice, Pisa, Toulouse, Venice and Brussels.

CHART – easyJet has expanded its operation by almost half the decade with annual passenger numbers increasing from 49million in 2010 to 74 million in 2016. This year, the airline is growing at the decade’s second fastest annual rate of growthSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and easyJet reports

This was the stand out and most ambitious development to emerge from the airline’s annual innovations day, where its outlines its current and future planned developments. Since 2000, easyJet’s emissions have reduced by over 31% from 116.2 grams to 79.98 grams per passenger kilometre in 2016. The airline has a carbon emissions target of 72 grams by 2022, which would be a 10% reduction from today’s performance and a 38% improvement from 2000.

The recent addition of the first of its A320neos is already moving the airline towards its target. The neo is a step change in aircraft performance versus the previous technology, bringing significant environmental and operational benefits – up to 15% saving in fuel burn and CO2 emissions, and a reduced noise footprint of 50% on take-off and landing providing a benefit to airport neighbourhood communities. easyJet has taken delivery of two A320neo aircraft to date, with 98 on order for delivery by August 2022. In addition, easyJet has 30 A321neo aircraft on order, with the first delivery expected in July 2018.

CHART – easyJet’s current fleet of Airbus A319s and A320s has an average age of 7.1 yearsSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation Fleet Database

The airline is also introducing new electric, towbarless aircraft tugs to its operation at London Gatwick to perform pushbacks on its fleet of 60 aircraft at the airport, a move predicted to significantly reduce emissions at Gatwick as well as reduce the noise of these airfield operations versus the diesel tug vehicles currently utilised.

easyJet is also partnering with Safran to trial e-taxi hydrogen fuel cell technology in the coming months in what will be a revolutionary zero emissions taxiing system for its aircraft. Due to the high frequency and short sector lengths of easyJet’s operations, around 4% of its total fuel consumed annually is used when the airline’s aircraft are taxiing. Once applied across its fleet of 279 aircraft, this technology is expected to save around 55,000 tonnes of fuel and associated CO2 emissions per year and first trials will commence next year at Toulouse Airport.

The airline certainly takes sustainability seriously. It claims that due to investments in the latest technology, its operational efficiency and high loads, that each of its passenger’s carbon footprint is 22% less than a passenger on a traditional airline, flying the same aircraft on the same route.

“Innovation is in easyJet’s DNA,” it says, right from its launch almost 20 years ago when its low-fares and no-frills service started to change the way people fly to the present day where it is among the industry leaders in digital, web, engineering and operational innovations as it works to make travel more convenient and affordable for our passengers.

easyJet has been leading in recent advances in digital in order to enhance and simplify passengers’ experiences when flying. One million people scanned their passport details last year with their mobile camera phone making check in significantly faster and easier. 25% of all easyJet passengers now choose to have their boarding passes on their phone through the easyJet app.

Following an announcement last year easyJet and Founders Factory are actively working together to support and drive existing travel tech start-ups and co-create two new travel businesses within the incubator programme every year, for five years. easyJet has kick-started this strategic partnership with backing for FLIO and LuckyTrip, two travel start-ups with a focus in in airport experience and travel inspiration.

easyJet’s CCO Peter Duffy will be among the speakers at the CAPA-ACTE Global Summit taking place at the Sofitel London Heathrow in London between 11-13 October 2017. Engage with the greatest minds in aviation and business travel by joining the world’s Airline Leaders and Corporate Travel Executives. Check out the planned agenda and sign up now!

This innovative streak will also now see the airline will trial inflight entertainment for the first time in a partnership with Rakuten, a global leader in internet services and e-commerce, and Immfly, an inflight digital services platform provider. Removing the need for costly configuration changes or the carriage of devices, ‘Air Time’ will deliver the content directly to passengers’ own devices.

The easy-to-use portal will be accessible through the user’s own device browser which will connect to the onboard wireless network, while in flight mode. To ensure young viewers are protected, any age restricted content will be clearly marked and users will be asked to confirm their age in order to view the content, in the same way as many mainstream online streaming services.

‘Air Time’ will be initially available on five easyJet aircraft from this autumn, with plans to roll the service out to the entire fleet. The portal will connect to the devices via the onboard wireless network, while in flight mode and deliver a wide range of short haul suited entertainment including TV and film, kids entertainment, games and audio books as well as easyJet flight information and destination guides.