Improving fuel decisions by airline pilots in flight preparation and execution:

by E.M. Tramper

Institution: Delft University of Technology
Year: 2015
Keywords: KLM; fuel decisions; behavioural decision-making; prospect theory; fuel
Record ID: 1261656
Full text PDF: http://resolver.tudelft.nl/uuid:69afe2c6-99b5-4de8-96c5-29b9efdee531


High fuel prices and strong competition have put pressure on airlines to reduce costs and become more efficient. For KLM fuel costs were $3.9bn in 2013: 31% of the total expenses. Therefore, focus has been put on fuel efficiency programmes. The pilot in command, the captain, has the final decision about the fuel quantity taken on board of an aircraft. In flight preparation, this pilot can decide to order extra fuel when he or she thinks certain conditions require more fuel. The factors on which this 'extra fuel decision' is based have not been researched before and are not sufficiently known. Gaining insight in the underlying drivers of fuel decisions can contribute to find a solution in which high standards of safety are maintained, while fuel costs are lowered. The research question was therefore formulated as follows: How can fuel decisions by airline pilots during flight preparation and execution be improved? Data analysis was performed to calculate the costs and benefits of taking extra fuel. Interviews were conducted and questionnaires were filled in by 175 KLM pilots and 16 flight dispatchers to gain more insight in the underlying drivers for fuel decisions. Statistical analysis and literature of the Prospect Theory of Kahneman and Tversky were used to analyse the results and to explain the decision-making of the pilot in command. This information served as a base from which a proposal for improvements was created. [...] Fuel decisions by airline pilots during flight preparation and execution might be improved by offering digital flight specific information. To 'expand' the experiences of pilots, this information should include feedback and experiences from colleagues and statistical information of previous flights. This information should always be used as background information. In addition, a flight specific information-application might help to create more trust in the flight plan. Further studies are recommended to analyse extra fuel decisions on an individual level. It is also recommended to test a flight specific information-application to investigate if it serves its purpose: better supporting pilots in flight preparation and execution, creating more awareness and improving their fuel decisions.