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]

Rising Fuel Costs Cause No Reason To Kill Vacation Plans

As travelers make plans for summer, rising fuel costs are coming into play more than ever. Still, a recent survey indicates that vacation loyalists continue to plan summer travel by land or air, despite rising fuel costs.

“Many Americans consider travel a mainstay to our way of life and are loyal vacationers,” said Bill Sutherland, vice president, AAA Travel Services in a statement. “While some Americans may modify their travel due to rising fuel costs, those who can are still choosing to travel and they are traversing the world.”

According to a recent AAA survey, many seasoned vacationers are expanding their travel horizons to exotic faraway lands too. While many Americans head to their computers when planning a summer getaway, AAA has seen a continuation of the number of vacationers seeking expert advice from a travel counselor to help guide their decisions, save time researching and get information on popular destinations.

The top 10 destinations asked about?

By land

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Honolulu, Hawaii
  3. Rome, Italy
  4. London, England
  5. Anaheim, California

By air

  1. China
  2. Peru
  3. The Galapagos
  4. The Amazon
  5. India

AAA has more than 54 million members, is a not-for-profit, fully tax-paying leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

[Flickr photo via david drexler]

Airline fuel costs up almost a third since last year

So, how expensive is fuel for the airline industry? Brace yourself: the situation is pretty ugly. In April 2011, airlines in the United States dropped an average of $2.99 a gallon on fuel. That number sounds a lot better than what you’re seeing at the pump, right? How can it be that bad?

Well, this is yet another month-over-month increase. In March, the airlines spent an average of only $2.80 a gallon on get fuel, according to the latest data from the U.S Department of Transportation‘s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. In 30 days, we’re looking at a 6.8 percent spike. Look back even further, and the numbers don’t get any prettier. In April 2010, the U.S. airline industry spent an average of $2.29 on fuel. In one year, the average cost has surged an incredible 31 percent!

If you thought driving was too expensive because of gas prices, you’ll find the skies decidedly unfriendly.

[photo by octal via Flickr]

Delta to start charging for the first checked bag but has more price reductions

As Grant posted, Delta and Northwest just dropped that fee from ticket prices. However, in the now you have it, now you don’t score card of the just how much money will this flight cost me anyway game, Delta will start charging passengers $15 for the first checked bag. This isn’t happening today, so no need to head to the money machine for extra cash just yet.

Starting on December 5, you’ll be rolling over that fuel surcharge savings into paying for the bag when flying domestically. The second checked bag will cost $25. If you purchased your ticket on Wednesday (yesterday), you won’t be charged for the first bag, but will pay $50 for the second if your trip happens to be when the charge would go into effect.

The fee doesn’t apply to everyone though. First class, business class, SkyMiles Medallion members and WorldPerks Elite members will be able to check up to three bags–up to 70 pounds each, without paying the extra charge.

But, here are changes that add money to passengers wallets. Starting today:

  • purchasing tickets over the phone from a reservations sales representative is now $20 instead of $25
  • redeeming SkyMiles or WorldPerks award travel over the phone is also $20 instead of $25
  • the curbside check-in fee of $3 is also dropped

Delta Airlines is making these changes in order to be aligned with Northwest Airlines’ policies as part of the merger.

Another change that was implemented last week to match Northwest’s price structure is that Delta passengers can purchase better seat assignments in coach for $5 to $25. Only 10% of the seats fit into the “coach choice seats” category so its not like people who don’t want to pay extra will be left with the dregs.

In looking at these changes it seems that the intention of the merger is to do the best possible job keeping the passenger happy while making money for the airlines. The charges could have gone the other way and Northwest passengers could have found their fees going up.

[Check out this AP article for more details. Photo by Andrei Dimofte ]