Airline avoids flushes to save fuel

A Chinese airline is urging passengers to use the toilet before they board in an effort to cut down on non-essential fuel use during flights.

Each toilet flush while the aircraft is in the air uses up a litre of fuel, and alongside the carrying of non-essential items such as pillows and blankets accounts for a substantial amount of fuel use, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The energy used in one flush is enough for an economical car to run at least 10 kilometers,” one of the airline’s pilots, captain Liu Zhiyuan, said. Carrying each kilogram of blankets and pillows for one hour uses up 0.2 kilograms of fuel oil, he added.

“This means the blankets and pillows on board the aircraft eat up 60 tons of fuel every day. If each seat is loaded with three 450-gram magazines, another 60 tons will be consumed,” he said.

“One hundred and twenty tons of fuel can carry a Boeing 737 aircraft to Paris from Beijing and back,” he added.

Chinese Southern Airlines are advising passengers to use the toilet before their travel as a way of cutting expenses, with the added bonus of reducing carbon emissions.

“Fuel expenditure accounts for up to 35 to 40 percent of the total operational costs of Chinese airlines, so reducing fuel consumption to the extent that the basic needs of customers are still guaranteed has become essential,” said captain Liu.

But even if all airlines followed the example of Chinese Southern Airlines, air travel will remain the fastest growing source of carbon emissions as the savings made from toilet flushing are not comparable to the amount of fuel needed to fly the aircraft.

And while saving on flushes may work on short-haul flights like Hangzhou to Beijing, a route on which captain Liu flies regularly, only the most green-minded passengers are likely heed airlines’ advice when it comes to further international destinations.

Goska Romanowicz

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