Fuel Prices Cause Airlines to Cut Costs Any Way They Can
Last week I mentioned the fact that MAXJet was ceasing operations this week also brought news that Big Sky Airlines, which has had a partnership with Delta Airlines, plans to close up shop and sell their planes. With the price of oil shooting up to the magic $100-a-barrel mark, airlines are on a frantic quest to either reduce costs or risk going out of business. Some are raising fares or put more passengers on each flight but others are trying to lighten the load anyway they can. The changes sound minor, like using less paint or beverage carts that weigh less but little changes can make a big difference.
And it may be that planes in the U.S. need it most. A recent report from the International Air Transport Association said that profit probably would fall from $5.6 billion in 2007 to $5 billion in 2008 worldwide, with most of the decline coming in North America. Why? Because many planes used here are older gas guzzlers. But there is hope, Alaska Airlines plans to replace 16 MD-80 planes with more fuel-efficient 737-800s and American is modifying the tail cones on their MD-80 planes to be more aerodynamic. US Airways is carrying less extra fuel on flights and ordering new aircraft and Delta is retrofitting planes with wingtip extensions that improve fuel efficiency. Delta is also trying to fly less half-empty planes.
Unfortunately it seems that airlines are in a difficult predicament, one that, if you check out this WaPo article, they've been fretting about since 2005. They can't raise airfares too much unless everyone does it and they can't buy new, more fuel-efficient planes unless they are making a profit. It does make me think though that the days of lucking into a flight where you have an empty seat next to you, or even the infinitely desirable row to yourself may be a thing of the past. Given the global warming factor, I might even find myself feeling a bit guilty if the seat next to me isn't filled.