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Reducing airline turnaround times—the amount of time planes spend on the ground between flights—could yield big environmental benefits as well as cost savings for airlines and a better travel experience for passengers, a new report suggests.

OAG’s 2024 Travel Tech Report, titled, “The Future of Innovative Airline Operations,” states that cutting the amount of time airlines spend on the ground running their auxiliary power units (APUs) could lead to significant reductions in CO2 emissions.

“Reducing each flight’s turnaround time by just a single minute, thus cutting APU runtime, can lead to a CO2 reduc­tion of over 3 kg (6.6 pounds)—a seemingly modest amount,” the report said. “But when projected across the an­ticipated 32 million flights in 2023, this translates to a staggering indus­try-wide savings of over 172 million kg (379 million pounds) of CO2.”

Cutting turnaround times also minimizes flight delays, benefitting travelers, and ensures that planes spend more time flying, which allows airlines to spread fixed costs across more flights, OAG said.

“By shaving off a mere 10 minutes from the average turn-time (reducing it from 40 to 30 minutes), airplane utilization surges by an impressive 8 percent for a typical point-to-point carrier,” the report noted, adding: “For many travelers, especially those on connecting flights, punctuality is crucial for ensuring connectivity. A delay in one segment can have a ripple effect, potentially causing passengers to miss their connecting flights and disrupting carefully planned itineraries.

“Therefore, maintaining strict adherence to scheduled turnaround times is essential not just for economic reasons and operational efficiency but also for ensuring that passengers can reliably reach their destinations or make their connecting flights without undue stress.”

New Strategies Lead to Improved Turnaround Times

Airlines and airports have employed a wide variety of approaches in order to reduce turnaround time, OAG noted. Delta Air Lines, for example, has been able to cut turnaround time by a minute or two simply by changing the angle at which aircraft push away from gates, while Amsterdam Schiphol Airport has been testing AI-powered analytics to speed up ground operations.

In addition to turnaround times, the 2024 Travel Tech Report also explored the use of technology to improve flight planning—which also could result in reduced fossil fuel use and emissions—and baggage management (in order to prevent lost and mishandled luggage).