Reasoning with Americans to save energy beyond the extent of which it impacts their wallets has been a slow process. But the recent oil catastrophe in the Gulf, alongside the ongoing debate on global warming will hopefully foster an expanding consciousness around fuel efficiency. Measuring altruistic motivation to buy green is not easy to segregate in the consumer market due to the adjunct direct fuel cost savings that products offer. Now, we may soon have a more pure measure from the passenger airline industry.
This morning's WSJ published an analysis of how airlines compare on fuel efficiency based upon data from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Their basis for comparison is seat miles per gallon of fuel, whether or not the seat is occupied. The Journal claims that "U.S. major airlines average about 64 mpg ... [or] For each gallon of jet fuel, airlines could, on average, fly one seat 64 miles." It's interesting that flying is far more fuel efficient than driving.
The article also states that "The three worst major U.S. carriers for fuel efficiency happen to be the three biggest: Delta, American and United airlines. [because] They fly the biggest planes, which aren't always more fuel efficient, and they have the oldest fleets." Alaska Airlines tops the list at 75.9 SM/G, Jet Blue is second at 71.1 SM/G and Continental and Southwest are a close third and fourth at about 69 SM/G.
We can hope that lower fuel cost per seat translates into lower fares among the most efficient airlines, but that's not likely to be a large factor in pricing. It remains to be seen whether or not these figures creep into airline advertising and also if consumers will weigh them when deciding where to spend their flying dollars along with reward programs, baggage fees and on-time performance.