Fuel Costs Aren’t Making Airlines Eco-Friendly

As discussed in an article in The Economist today, airlines should theoretically be becoming more and more “green.” Fuel costs are normally the largest single cost for airlines and rising fuel costs aren’t good for the airline or the customer. One might assume that airlines would pursue fuel efficiency with their bottom line in mind, but that doesn’t appear to be the case, at least not with the most profitable domestic Airline (2009-2011), Allegiant Air. Allegiant was found to actually be the least fuel efficient airline for the year of 2010 in a report recently released by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).
While it is certainly counter-intuitive that the most profitable airline can also be the least fuel efficient, there are other factors that play into the sometimes ambiguous cost/profit setup of airlines.

Still, The Economist asks the question that I have to echo: “If the bottom line cannot force airlines to be more fuel efficient, what can?” One of the many possible answers to that question is fleet, since almost one-third of the efficiency gap between airlines can be attributed to differences in fleet. Here’s to hoping for the employment of greener planes down the road.

[Thanks, The Economist]

High Fuel Costs End Carriers' Longest Routes

Allegiant Air To Start Charging For Carry-Ons

Las Vegas-based, low cost carrier Allegiant Air will begin charging for carry-on bags as of Wednesday, April 4.

“Allegiant will begin charging for carry-ons for travelers booking new reservations beginning Wednesday (it will go live on our website late Tuesday night PDT),” said Jessica Wheeler, public relations manager for Allegiant, as confirmed by AirlineReporter.com.

This is policy the company has been considering since spring of last year.

A fee schedule has not yet been released, but an internal memo to employees says that paying for carry-ons at the airport will be about $35 and that advance payment online will be between $15 and $29, about on par with the airline’s checked bag rates.

This can’t be a popular move, even for an ultra low cost airline. Sound off in the comments below.

[flickr image via o5com]

Airlines have best quarter ever … thanks baggage fees!

Airlines have best quarter thanks to baggage feesEvery time you pay to check an extra bag you’re making someone’s life better. The latest data from the U.S. Department of Transportation reveals that the third quarter of 2010 was the most profitable for the U.S. airline industry since the department began keeping score in 2002. The industry’s operating profit margin hit 10.5 percent in aggregate. Low-cost carriers, as a class, had an operating profit margin of 11 percent, its best performance since hitting 11.2 percent in the third quarter of 2006.

How did the airline industry pull this off? Recovering economic conditions helped, of course, but so did the stuff that passengers have gotten comfortable complaining about. More than $900 million in third-quarter revenue came from baggage fees, with another $590 million from reservation change fees. Then, there was another $646 million in ancillary fees. It all adds up to more than $2 billion for a single quarter.

So, while we’re all complaining about these extra fees, it looks like many of us are paying them, too.Spirit picks up the highest percentage of its revenue from ancillary fees at 26.9 percent, up from 24.2 percent in the second quarter of 2010 and 20.6 percent in the third quarter of 2009. Allegiant was next at 9.7 percent. Delta and US Airways derived 7.7 percent of their revenues from ancillary fees, with Southwest at 6.7 percent.

Of course, the money isn’t just going into the pockets of airline employees and executives. The six network airlines spent 25 percent of their operating expenses in the third quarter on fuel. United Airlines spent the most on fuel among network carriers – 25.7 percent of total revenue – with Allegiant leading low-cost carriers at 44.1 percent.

Before you feel too sorry for airlines when it comes to fuel costs, remember those profits. Four network airlines had double-digit operating margins, along with four low-cost carriers.

[photo by Tracy O via Flickr]

Which airline made the most money on baggage fees?

airline baggage feesLast year, baggage fees were used by airlines to make up for lost fare revenue, as the recession kept people on the ground. This year, it’s just been a great source of extra revenue, as passenger traffic and fares are up – and the fees haven’t gone away. Almost all airlines are getting in on the action, some more egregious than others.

Well, data for the third quarter of 2010 is in, and we can finally take a look at who’s hitting us hardest … and for how much. The numbers will probably shock you. The top baggage fee-grabber owned close to 30 percent of the total baggage fees charged in the United States, a market that has reached $2.6 billion for the first three quarters of the year, and the top five dominate with approximately 80 percent of the total fees charged for bags, according to data from the Department of Transportation.

Let’s take a look at the top five airlines for baggage fee snatching (and then the rest):1. Delta Air Lines, $733 million: in fairness, Delta is the largest airline in the United States, so it’s to be expected that it will generate the most revenue.

2. American Airlines, $431 million: the third-largest airline hits the #2 spot for baggage fees, implying an aptitude for prying open customer wallets yet to be recognized by its competitors.

3. US Airways, $388 million: again, this is an impressive take, as evidenced by the distance between US Airways and Continental, in the #4 spot.

4. Continental Airlines, $258 million: this almost makes the airline look downright reasonable, especially when it’s year-to-date baggage fees aren’t even as substantial as what Delta raked in during the third quarter alone!

5. United Airlines, $239 million:

And, the rest:

6. AirTran Airways: $112 million

7. Alaska Airlines: $81 million

8. Spirit Air Lines: $56 million

9. Frontier Airlines: $44 million

10. JetBlue Airways: $43 million

11. Allegiant Air: $43 million

12. Hawaiian Airlines: $40 million

13. Virgin America: $27 million

14. Southwest Airlines: $23 million

15. Republic Airlines: $18 million

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16. Horizon Air: $13 million

17. Sun Country airlines: $9 million

18. Mesa Airlines: $2 million

19. Continental Micronesia: $2 million

20. USA 3000 Airlines: $2 million

[photo by The Story Lady via Flickr]

Five reasons airline fees up 50% year-over-year

Does your wallet feel a little bit lighter? A new USA Today analysis reveals that airline fees are on the rise, with some up more than 50 percent relative to a year ago. The study compares the extra fees (not to be confused with fares) of 13 airlines and shows just how important this revenue source is to the airline sector.

According to USA Today, “The numerous fees are a sore subject for many fliers, but their dissatisfaction hasn’t deterred airlines from bringing in record revenue from additional fees.”

The fees were good for $2.1 billion last quarter, with $893 million of it coming from checked bags and $600 million from changed reservations.

So, where did all this money come from? Here are five ways airlines have turned those extra charges into a big business:

1. First checked bag: most airlines in the United States hit you for up to $25 for the first bag you check, with only Southwest and JetBlue abstaining. Most charged $15 a year ago, according to USA Today, with four not playing this aspect of the fee game.

2. Change fee spikes:
a year ago, the most expensive coach change fee was $250, charged by Continental, Delta, United Airlines and US Airways. This year, it surged to $300, an increase of 20 percent, charged by American Airlines for some international flights.

3. Pay to call: still resisting the internet? Booking by phone costs an extra $35 on US Airways, while Allegiant Air hits you for a $29.98 round-trip booking fee and another $14.99 for “convenience.”

4. Preferred seating: United asks for up to $159 for preferred seating, which can give you up to five more inches of leg room. A year ago, it would have set you back only $119.

5. Get a receipt: Continental (for which this isn’t new) – along with American, Hawaiian and US Airways – have an extra fee for passengers who want a receipt after they have taken their flights.

[photo by Deanster1983 via Flickr]