Oobitsa From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 79 posts, RR: 0 Posted (9 years 6 months 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 2749 times:
In light of the recent hikes in oil prices, I've been seeing press reports of airlines taking steps to save fuel. The reports suggest that airlines are changing their routes, decreasing their takeoff weight etc. (FYI. There's going to be a report on Marketplace on public radio this afternoon on the subject).
What, realistically, can the airlines do to save fuel?
OPNLguy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 2, posted (9 years 6 months 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 2687 times:
I've been watching this with great interest, since as a dispatcher, I plan 40+ flights each and every shift, and fuel savings are always on our mind...
In a nutshell....
They can fly slower climb and cruise speed schedules...
They can cut the "fixed" weight of the aircraft by pulling un-used/under-utilized equipment like some galley stuff, or even carrying less potable water onboard.
They can cut the "variable" weight of the aircraft by carrying less fuel. Media reports have been confusing on this aspect, as nobody seems to consistently and accurately report -which- fuel is being reduced, and nobody seems to discern the difference between international versus domestic (USA) requirements.
International reserves are 30 minutes plus 10% of the trip time. Domestic reserves are a flat :45. AA reportedly got approval/waiver/exemption to cut INTERNATIONAL reserves to 30 minutes plus *5%* of the trip time. Some have reported that they got approval to reduce the domestic reserves, but I don't beleive that to be the case, since nobody seems to be able to back that up with a revised number. If they did get a reduced DOMESTIC reserve figure, you can bet your boots that every other domestic airline would want the same ability to use it, and as that hasn't happened, I again think any talk of someone getting reduced domestic reserves is just that-TALK.
What I have heard about with some airlines (in their DOMESTIC ops) is to now cut/reduce the amount of "contingency fuel" that they carry. This is different than the FAR :45 domestic reserve fuel, and it considers a variety of uses such as holding patterns, enroute weather deviations, wintertime engine/wing anti-ice usage, unexpected taxi delays, amonsgt other things.
One airline I heard (which shall remain nameless) has supposedly gone to an internal company policy of not carrying -any- contingency fuel. If that is indeed true, I think it's a bad idea, and runs the risk of running their dispatchers and captains afoul of other FARs regarding fuel planning and use, not to mention radically increasing the liklihood of diversions. It would be a shame to eek out $200 savings per flight on each of ten flights, only to spend $3,000 or so on each of the 3 or 4 that have to divert unnecessarily...
Another thing an airline can do to reduce the variable weight of fuel is to not designate (and thus carry fuel for) an alternate airport unless absolutely necessary. The big problem with this is that weather forecasts can sometimes, nay, OFTEN be really inaccurate. Most seasoned dispatchers that I know have the ability to outguess the NWS, and if a forecast is calling for great weather (no alternate required) and they think otherwise, they'll opt to add the alternate and the fuel. Outlawing this via company policy will also result in unnecessary diversions...
Oobitsa From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 79 posts, RR: 0 Reply 3, posted (9 years 6 months 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 2654 times:
Thanks folks. In listening to all of this, I think it is going to be an interesting summer as the airlines, by cutting contingency and reserve fuel, have less whiggle room when it comes to dealing with the daily afternoon thunderstorms that roll through the east during the warmer months.
Tcfc424 From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 517 posts, RR: 2 Reply 11, posted (9 years 6 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 2328 times:
This is interesting...I recently flew DFW-CUN-DFW and was on SY ? (Sun Country) and both times we were running well behind their schedule---as has happened on the three days before...and three days after my flights (should they just change the schedule?) Anyway, I have become accustomed in the US to hear the pilots come across and mention something to the effect of "We will be making some of that time up by...." That was not mentioned, and we did not seem to 'make up time' as I have experienced in the past. Could this be due to the fuel economy issue (i.e. optimum burn rate?)