Picture of an airliner jet

Why be energy efficient?

The air transport industry has been focused on fuel efficiency improvements for decades, as fuel use can constitute between 20–35% of operating costs.1 Fuel efficiency improvements also provide greater range capability. Passenger jet aircraft today are around 70% more fuel efficient (defined as energy use per passenger km) than aircraft were 50 years ago. This has mainly been achieved through improved engine efficiency, aerodynamic performance, and light-weighting.2

Even though significant progress has been made, the potential to improve fuel efficiency by as much as 50% by 2050 still exists, through further improvements in weight reduction, aerodynamics, engine efficiency, use of alternative fuels and the upgrade of fleets.3 Improving fuel efficiency also provides the lowest cost strategy to achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions.4 Therefore, the business case for investing in fuel efficiency in the air transport sector remains a key business driver.


The International Aviation Transport Association (IATA) Technology Roadmap Report found that between now and 2020 the key energy efficiency opportunities exist in the following areas:

See all opportunities in Air transport

Case studies

Key resources

  • EEO Opportunities Register 2014 (Opens in a new window)
    • Department of Industry and Science

    This resource is a register of ‘significant opportunities’ identified by corporations as part of the Australian Government’s Energy Efficiency Opportunities (EEO) program. The register provides energy efficiency ideas that may be useful for other organisations looking to improve their energy productivity.

  • IATA Technology Roadmap Report 2013
    • International Air Transport Assocation

    The purpose of this IATA report was to identify and rank a range of technologies, applicable over different time periods that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation. These technologies were reviewed for both applicability and their development timeframe.

    The roadmap was originally published in 2009, then updated in 2013.

  • Overview on Drag Reduction Technologies for Civil Transport Aircraft 2004 (Opens in a new window)

    This report by the French Aerospace Laboratory gives an overview of the results obtained during testing of different methods of drag reduction and looks to evaluate the potential gains offered by the different technologies.

  • Flight Path to Sustainable Aviation 2011 (Opens in a new window)
    • CSIRO

    This report developed by the CSIRO aimed to determine the feasibility of the Australian and New Zealand aviation sector taking up bio-derived aviation fuels, the benefits of doing so and the challenges that need to be overcome to make it a reality.

Footnotes ~ Show 4 footnotes

  1. The International Air Transport Association (2009) The IATA Technology Roadmap Report (Opens in a new window) PDF 4.7 MB
  2. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (1999) Penner, J.E., D.H. Lister, D.J. Griggs, D.J. Dokken and M. McFarland (eds) Special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Aviation and the Global Atmosphere (IPCC) Working Groups I and III, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
  3. The International Air Transport Association (2009) The IATA Technology Roadmap Report (Opens in a new window) PDF 4.7 MB
  4. CSIRO (2011) Flight path to Sustainable Aviation