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I recently asked what kind of fuel reserve airlines were required to have. It turns out there are international guidelines for that, which for commercial flights are:

Per ICAO Annex 6, Part I, section 4.3.6 "Fuel Requirements," airplanes should calculate their required fuel quantity as follows (summary; see below for actual ICAO text):

  • Taxi fuel
  • Trip fuel (to reach intended destination)
  • Contingency fuel (higher of 5% of "trip fuel" or 5 minutes of holding flight)
  • Destination alternate fuel (to fly a missed and reach an alternate)
  • Final reserve fuel (45 minutes of holding flight for reciprocating engines, 30 minutes for jets)
  • Additional fuel (if needed to guarantee ability to reach an alternate with an engine failure or at lower altitude due to a pressurization loss)
  • Discretionary fuel (if the pilot in command wants it)

Considering a flight has many unknown, the same connexion using the same airplane will have different fuel requirement and fuel remaining, simply depending on the date you decide to have a look at the data.

Is there any statistics of how much fuel is left on average in aircrafts after landing of commercial flights?

It can be an average for commercial flights in general, a breakdown of short / medium / long haul flights, expressed in percentage of tank volume or in liters / gallons / weight. Or any usable measure I did not think of that can be used to do basic calculations.

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  • $\begingroup$ There are way too many variables here. For example some regional aircraft may carry extra fuel to get to a destination that has cheaper prices or a contract. I also don't know that an accounting is done in that regard, usually the pilot just asks for a specific amount for the next leg (or more). $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Mar 2, 2021 at 18:38
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    $\begingroup$ If fuel costs more at airport B than at airport A, and the cost of carrying extra fuel from airport A to airport B is less than the difference between the cost of the fuel at A and B, then airlines will sometimes carry more than they need to save money overall. $\endgroup$
    – Flynn
    Mar 2, 2021 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer I agree there are many variables, I'd be interested to know if statistics exist. We could get an estimate using fuel economy figures like the one in this page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_economy_in_aircraft ; but that wouldn't take into account other externalities like cheaper fuel you mentioned. $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2021 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ Some airlines fill the fuel tanks to the brim if it's going to make many short hops, the faster turnaround offsets the extra fuel burn and wear on the aircraft. I believe this would mess with the data you'd have with averaging the fuel left in arriving aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – Efe Ballı
    Mar 3, 2021 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ The short answer is that airlines aren't required to report fuel on landing so there is no central database of average landing fuel. $\endgroup$ Nov 24 at 17:01

2 Answers 2

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For a 737, between 5,000 and 8,000 lbs of fuel left at landing is fairly typical. For a short flight in good weather to an airport with multiple runways and nearby divert fields, the lower value is more likely; for a longer flight, and/or bad weather where holding is more likely, and the need to have fuel available for a possible divert, the higher value (or more, sometimes) becomes more likely.

That leaves aside the possibility of fuel tankering, which is adding more gas than the flight needs, so that less (or no) fuel has to be bought at the destination airport. If fuel is expensive at the destination (compared to the departure airport) and the passenger/freight load is light enough, it's possible to land with enough fuel in the tanks that no refueling is needed to fly the next flight (assuming it isn't too long). Tankering for differing fuel prices is referred to as "economic" fuel tankering; there is also "operational" fuel tankering, which occurs when fuel at the destination is either unavailable (natural disaster, perhaps) or running low (delayed delivery, some tanks/pumps inop, etc).

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The usual reserve is 10%. On QF9 Perth to London we depart with 110,000 litres and land with between 8,000 to 10,000 litres remaining.

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  • $\begingroup$ While relevant, one data point is not really a statistic. Do you have any additional information? $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Nov 24 at 16:56

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