Fuel Efficiency is interesting

A study was done on which airlines in the US were most fuel efficient and the scores are in.  First, let’s take a look at them:

1 Alaska 1.11 —-
2 Spirit 1.09 +2%
2 Hawaiian 1.09 +2%
4 Continental 1.07 +4%
5 Southwest 1.06 +4%
6 Frontier 1.02 +9%
7 JetBlue 1.01 +10%
8 United 1.00 +11% (industry average)
9 Virgin America 0.98 +13%
10 Sun Country 0.97 +14%
11 Delta 0.96 +15%
12 US Airways 0.95 +16%
13 AirTran 0.94 +17%
14 American 0.89 +23%
15 Allegiant 0.88 +26%

I find a few interesting and anecdotal observations to make in this list.  Be aware that this study was done using 2010 data.

First, notice that the “happiest” airlines are nearer the top.  That doesn’t mean all of them are happier places to work, it means that it is notable that many of the leaders are also airlines who take reasonably good care of their airlines.

Second, let’s take note that those that are better than the industry average are airlines who are far less involved in “hub” flight operations.  This makes sense as the airplanes are flown more efficiently in a point to point orientation.  Why does this make a difference?  Part of the fuel efficiency measure is centered on the airline making fewer connections to get between a city pair.

Third:  Old fleets made of old MD-80 aircraft are clearly not performing well for airlines.  That said, two of the more profitable airlines out there have them (Delta and Allegiant).

Fourth:  Hubs with less weather impact and with more central locations may be best.  Continental Airlines had Houston, United had Chicago and Denver and Southwest uses secondary airports for focus cities (Chicago, Dallas).

Fifth:  Newer fleets clearly are favored and the reason is obvious, I think.

Sixth:  No matter how many “advantages” you might have, bad leadership shines through nontheless. I’m talking about American Airlines.


2 Responses to “Fuel Efficiency is interesting”

  1. I would be interested in how these numbers were calculated. Gallons per ASM is one popular measure, but whatever they use, there will be an operational component and an aircraft performance component. A/C type and age are the major drivers of performance. If you have JT8D engines (DC-9, MD-80) you will be near the bottom of that list. Newer 737NG and A320 series seem to be the driver for the top airlines. If you just look at the majors, United enjoys a newer fleet of more efficient aircraft. Delta and American won’t start making a move north on that list until significant retirements are made to their MD-80 fleets.

  2. Agree on aircraft type and age but remember that this references city pairs and how much it takes to transport passengers on the various airlines. Non-stops will do better than one-stops, etc.


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