Efficient Planes Good For Business; Gas Guzzlers Get Left Behind

Efficient Planes Are Good Business; Gas Guzzlers Get Left Behind
Rendering Of A New, More Efficient American Airlines Airbus

The airline industry is one of the nation’s biggest consumers of fuel – no surprise there – but new aircraft technology has dramatically improved planes’ fuel efficiency.  Besides drastically cutting carbon emissions, more efficient jetliners have proven critical for airlines’ financial bottom lines, and companies clinging to outdated technology are paying the price, as evidenced by this week’s American Airlines bankruptcy.

Despite the cost of upgrades, a more modern and fuel-efficient fleet can make the difference between an airline staying competitive and losing money.  It’s no coincidence that American Airlines, which declared bankruptcy this week in an effort to restructure and cut costs, ranks as one of the worst US carriers in terms of average fuel efficiency according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.  Perhaps even more important, American has also trailed far behind most other airlines in improving its average fuel efficiency over the last decade.

Efficient Planes Are Good Business; Gas Guzzlers Get Left Behind
Older American Airlines Planes Like This MD-80 Are Inefficient, Costly

According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times,

More than a third of [American’s] 600 planes are McDonnell Douglas MD-80s, an aging design that burns more fuel than newer models.  “If oil was still at $50 a barrel, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” said Mike Boyd, an airline consultant. “Their bet was to hold on to their older MD-80s”.  American’s fleet has an average vintage of 15 years, making it one of the oldest and least fuel-efficient among the six major United States carriers.

Efficient Planes Are Good Business; Gas Guzzlers Get Left Behind
One Of AA's Next-Generation Boeing 737s

Fortunately, American was already planning a substantial overhaul to its stable of aircraft.  Back in July, Wired reported that American had announced huge deals to purchase a minimum of 460 next-generation, fuel-efficient Boeing and Airbus aircraft.  It’s worth noting that air travel is nowhere near as “green” as, say, riding your bike, but when it comes to the average “mile per gallon per seat” measurement for a person traveling by either plane or by car, planes are often a more efficient option.  For example, the most modern Boeing 737 can transport a passenger as efficiently as a 99-mpg car.

Air travel isn’t likely to lose its popularity anytime soon, but the industry still has a responsibility to be as fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly as possible.  And airlines are finally starting to realize that greener technology is good for business as well as the planet.

Related: Delta Airliners Integrating Wheeltug Hybrid Motor Technology

2 thoughts on “Efficient Planes Good For Business; Gas Guzzlers Get Left Behind”

  1. Our browser extension displays fuel efficiency ratings of flights on Expedia. We help travelers find the lowest combination of price, duration and emissions, so when they have to fly at least they can make responsible choices. Interestingly efficient flights can be significantly more fuel efficient and yet be priced the same. So we just need to know which ones they are and then shift demand towards efficient routes. We released our public beta last month! Please give us a try and let us know what you think. thanks!

  2. This is really a great example of why green solution will out in the end, eventually market prices for any given product have to adjust to reflect the wider costs of using it, in the end being green will be the only way to profit in the long term.

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