TIACA’s première 30-minute webinar last week in a planned new series hosted by its Transition Director, Celine Hourcade, and starring CLIVE’s Managing Director, Niall van de Wouw, as first guest speaker, immediately kicked off its first major push for change in the way we traditionally monitor load factor across the industry.
If COVID has taught us something, it is that capacity is a luxury and that PPE does not weigh much but takes up a great deal of space. Want proof? Check out CFG’s article on the volume-record-breaking AN225 (Click here) back on 16APR20: At 1050m³ volume, the mega-plane had maxed out on space, yet the total contents “merely” added up to 100 tons in actual weight. Work out the load factor using today’s standard methodology – in other words, “How much weight can a plane carry and how much weight was on that plane?” - and you end up with a pretty pitiful percentage result…
How full is full?
And it is precisely this weight-based view that Niall van de Wouw criticizes, having asked the audience to first calculate how full two boxes capable of holding 20 kgs and 0.2m3 in weight and volume each, with one maxed out on volume and the other on weight. Using the current formula, Box 1 would appear to be quarter full since only 25% of the available weight limit is utilized, whilst Box 2 is 100% full on weight. Yet, he points out that both boxes are full, since “if you take the perspective, could you have added anything more to box 1? No, because it was full in volume. Could you have added anything more to box number two? No, because it was full in weight. And that is what we are trying to change in our industry, as we would approach how full planes are from a dynamic point of view, from both angles, both ways: and that's what we call dynamic, because sometimes you will take the volume load factor of a plane, if it is more constrained, or you might take the weight load factor if the weight is constrained on a very long flight.”
In search of a prettier, more reflective line
Showing a chart comparing the traditional (blue) load factor monitoring against the dynamic load factor (yellow) methodology, the discrepancy is striking. This is “not just a theoretical exercise. It has quite a profound impact on how we should look at our industry when it comes to the utilization of capacity.” The current, blue way of monitoring gives off a dangerously wrong message, and yet, because it is the set methodology, and has been for years, it provides the figures on which basis politicians, aircraft manufacturers, environmentalists and a whole host of others make their decisions. If we are constantly giving the message that planes are “only 50% full” on average, when in fact the true picture is nearer 75%, it is no surprise that we end up with an unfairer negative image when it comes to e.g. sustainability (which, by the way, is the topic of TIACA’s next webinar coming soon.)
Stronger versus lighter
And where are we heading? In fact, capacity density is increasing as aircraft manufacturers are building ever stronger planes capable of carrying more weight. Yet, marry that fact with the reality that eCommerce is changing what we transport – often lighter and more volumetric – sticking to the current way of measuring load factor will give off an even more distorted view in future.
The webinar audience was polled as to what it thought should be the way forward: a) no change to today’s weight-based load factor approach, b) monitor and compare both ways of measuring load factor, or c) move to dynamic load factor monitoring. The majority was in favor of answers b and c. The push for dynamic load factor monitoring has begun – supported by TIACA.
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