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We Know You Have a Choice in Airlines… - Sierra Daily
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Sierra Daily

Sep 10, 2013

We Know You Have a Choice in Airlines…

Airlines-fuel-efficiency-icct.jpg.662x0_q100_crop-scaleFlying has its environmental cost, but you don’t have to forgo your environmental sensibilities -- or the fun of travel altogether -- to maintain some sense of ecological righteousness. Ranking 15 major airlines, the International Council on Clean Transportation found whopping differences in the fuel efficiency of carriers, even among those flying identical routes. The most efficient airline overall, based on 2010 data, was Alaska Airlines; the least efficient, Allegiant. Alaska was 26 percentage points more efficient than Allegiant. 

“This gap is larger than what might be expected in a mature aviation market during a period of high fuel prices,” the report’s authors wrote. About one-third of efficiency differences can be attributed to more efficient aircraft designs and technologies. (Old, inefficient fleets -– in 2010, at least -- hindered both Allegiant and next-to-last American.) The rest is “due to a mix of factors including route circuity, airport congestion, differing average percentages of occupied seats, and fuel-saving operating practices such as taxiing with only one engine.”

Alas, airlines aren’t scrambling fast enough to replace old fleets. That’s because the cost of the latest, most-efficient plane may not be recouped soon enough to satisfy quarterly balance sheets. According to the report, “the purchase of newer, more fuel-efficient jets might make little sense when older ones are available at a significant discount because the fixed cost of state of-the-art aircraft might not be offset by the projected fuel savings.”

Image: ICCT

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

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