Air Travel in Crisis

The Toronto Star reports today that Air Canada is laying off another 632 flight attendants, trying to cut costs associated with the soaring cost of fuel. Most interesting was a compilation of measures other airlines are taking in a desperate effort to keep flying:

  • American Airlines has removed pillows from most domestic flights to save $375,000 a year.
  • American and others are charging $15 for the first checked bag.
  • Southwest Airlines is among those slowing down to reduce fuel.
  • Delta has swapped heavier seats for models weighing about 5 pounds less.
  • American’s new drink carts are 17 pounds lighter, a move that saves 1.9 million gallons of fuel a year.
  • Lufthansa is among those washing its planes more often to reduce wind resistance.
  • Japan Airlines is redesigning cutlery to save 2 grams per piece. It is also saving 50 pounds per flight by cutting the number of newspapers and magazines it carries.
  • Cathay Pacific has removed paint from its 747 freighters, removing as much as 440 pounds per plane.
  • Delta is studying whether it is feasible to divide pilot manuals required on each flight between the captain and first officer, so they are not toting duplicate sets of five or six books that each weigh about a pound and a half.
  • Northwest is carrying 25 percent less water for bathroom taps and toilets on international flights. Each 25 pounds removed, saves $440,000 a year.

It is definitely only a matter of time before passengers will be paying fares based on their own weight. With rising obesity rates in the developed world, some passengers may find themselves, er, grounded unless they can pay their way. It only seems fair, since there are already extra charges for overweight baggage. But I wonder what kind of a “human rights” kerfuffle will result?

With some peak oil commentators like James Howard Kunstler arguing that the whole airline industry will be dead and gone within 24 months, the point may be moot.