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Behavior Change
Small Behavioral Interventions with Pilots Add Up to Massive Savings for Airlines

A new whitepaper details an 8-month study conducted with Virgin Atlantic — in which a behavioral intervention with pilots created $6.1M in fuel savings, and demonstrated the most cost-effective carbon-abatement solution in history.

With the airline industry being one of the hardest-hit since the onset of COVID, finding easy ways to save millions of dollars and tons of fuel would likely be welcome.

Signol — a London-based tech firm that’s used behavioral economics and data science to develop a software that helps companies cut fuel waste and reap the resulting millions in fuel and carbon savings — has just released its first whitepaper, which details a study that could be a game-changer for the aviation industry.

The 6-page report explores an 8-month study conducted with Virgin Atlantic — in which a behavioral intervention with pilots created $6.1 million in fuel savings; and demonstrated the most cost-effective carbon-abatement solution in history, with 24k tons in carbon savings,. The pilot study (in more ways than one) was the world's first randomized, controlled trial in aviation and ultimately led to the formation of Signol.

As Signol Board advisor Melvin Matthews said in a blog post:

“Companies are now waking up to the impacts of human behavior on operations. … Having the most sophisticated and advanced machinery is virtually useless, unless it is operated efficiently by competent operators. This is where monitoring, benchmarking and improving human behavior comes in — perhaps as the final frontier to further push the boundaries of performance.”

Among the study’s findings:

  • When it comes to making consistent, safe and fuel-efficient decisions, there is a difference of up to 4x between top and bottom pilots

  • Making fuel-efficient decisions can save up to 4 percent of fuel burn per flight, along with the equivalent carbon savings

  • By individually tailoring and targeting feedback on captain behavior, fuel-efficient behavior is increased by over 10 percent above simply showing generic dashboards

  • By directly connecting pilots to the impact of their decisions and offering prosocial incentives — such as charitable donations — pilot wellbeing is also significantly improved.

“In these difficult times, we want to offer a positive vision; and to be a key step for a new way of doing business in the 2020s — where profits go hand-in-hand with social and environmental impact,” says Signol CEO Dan White.

The publishing of the whitepaper is the first step of many in the works for Signol, which is dedicated to saving operational costs and helping airlines build back better from COVID through operational behavioral interventions.

Signol’s analytical techniques shine light on the human aspect of operational decision-making and help companies use this insight to reduce both high operating costs and high greenhouse gas emissions. With its proven results for the aviation industry, the company is now working to adapt its behavioral feedback platform to tackle other high-emissions industries — including shipping and road transport.

On November 19, Signol will host a roundtable discussion with the behavioral economists involved in the Virgin Atlantic study — along with aviation academics, airline management, and pilot union leaders — on how small changes can add up to major financial, resource and environmental savings.