British Airways is embarking on a multi-million-pound investment programme to overhaul its ground support equipment at London Heathrow Airport

The airline will gradually replace its ground vehicles at Heathrow, such as vans and cars, cargo transporters and passenger steps, moving towards hybrid or electric alternatives where available. Already, more than 90% of British Airways’ vehicles and ground equipment at Heathrow are either zero emissions electrical equipment when being used or driven, hybrids, or are operating on hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) fuel.

Improvements include replacing more than 750 pieces of ground equipment, including fuel bowsers from fossil fuel to HVO. HVO is an interim measure whilst the airline gradually transitions to zero-emissions (when being used or driven) or hybrid equipment. Supplied by the airline’s current sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) supplier, Phillips 66, the use of HVO is anticipated to save more than 6,000 tonnes of CO2 per year compared to traditional diesel fuel. 

British Airways will also replace its diesel passenger aircraft steps at Heathrow with electric alternatives. This aims to reduce fuel consumption by more than 370 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, based on previous diesel usage. Many of the electric steps will be in full service by the end of the year.

The carrier will also phase out its fleet of 20 diesel-powered vehicles which support the loading and unloading of cargo containers onto aircraft, replacing them with hybrid electric models. It will deploy 135 new electric baggage tugs, accounting for 40% of its tugs, to transport customer's luggage. This improved battery and charging technology utilises highly efficient lithium-ion battery technology, requiring less energy and producing 30% less C02 when in use compared to traditional lead acid batteries.

The final measure will see the airline gradually phasing out all 38 diesel passenger buses over the next two years, with 23 expected to be fully electric and the remaining 15 operating on HVO fuel, with a large charging park at Heathrow now in the early stages of development. The use of these vehicles is expected to save 800 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, helping to reduce negative air quality impacts around the Heathrow area.

Tom Moran, British Airways’ director of Heathrow, said: “At British Airways, we are committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner and our focus isn’t just about reducing emissions in the air, but on the ground too.

“This major investment into our vehicles at Heathrow is our largest investment in more sustainable airport ground operations to date and is part of our wider environmental objective to minimise emissions from our airside ground operation. We’re proud of the work we are doing in this space and are excited to continue improving the running of our ground operations at Heathrow.”

The investment is BA’s largest yet in sustainable airport ground operations
The investment is BA’s largest yet in sustainable airport ground operations British Airways