Improving Local Air Quality

 A British Airways aircraft taxiing, with an American Airlines aircraft and a Qantas aircraft in the background.

Local air quality is a significant issue for people living in urban areas. It is often a limiting factor in any new development, including the growth of airports.

Air quality is affected by a number of source emissions, but the main issues are oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and small particles in the air called Particulate Matter (PM).

We focus our efforts to improve the local air quality around the following areas:

Take-off Procedures

The ‘Assumed Temperature’ technique involves using the minimum thrust permitted for take-off, allowing us to minimise the amount of NOx emissions from our aircraft.

Landing Procedures

We can reduce NOx emissions by reducing the aircraft flap angle (angle of wing extension deployment) and therefore the thrust levels on approach, and by using only “reverse idle” (or minimum) thrust as the aircraft lands on the runway.

Auxiliary Power

The Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) and the Ground Power Unit (GPU) power the aircraft on the ground and can contribute up to 20% of all ground level NOx emissions. Our home at London Heathrow Terminal 5 is able to supply both electrical power and conditioned air, which enables us to reduce the amount of time APUs and GPUs are required to be used.

New Aircraft

From 2013 we will be replacing many of our Boeing 747-400 and 767-300 aircraft with Airbus 380s and Boeing 787s. The A380 emits about 10% less NOx per aircraft than the Boeing 747-400, whilst the Boeing 787’s NOx emissions are about 45% less per aircraft than the Boeing 767.

New Technology and Equipment

Not only do we work closely with manufacturers to ensure the latest ‘clean’ technology is used when designing new aircraft and engines, but we have also improved the engine combustion efficiency on existing long-haul aircraft to reduce our NOx emissions.

Investing in cleaner ground vehicles

As part of our move to London Heathrow Terminal 5 we invested £25m in more than 550 newer, more efficient airport vehicles for ground staff and operations.

We are also members of the Heathrow Clean Vehicles Programme, the aim of which is to reduce overall emissions from our ground fleet.