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Thursday, July 10, 2014

How to save money on flying? Do your 'business' before you take off

This is being shared courtesy of our friends at Wells Fargo Daily Advantage - thank you to Kathi Kwiatkowski!

There's a story that years ago, an American Airlines CEO had one olive removed from each in-flight salad. The change saved $100,000 in fuel costs. It may just be an urban legend, but FiveThirtyEight crunched some numbers to see how much an airline could save by making small changes.

The airline used in the simulation: Southwest Airlines. The route: Boston to Denver. The plane: a Boeing 737-700 at 85% capacity (122 passengers). Based on its assumptions, total fuel costs for this route equal $7,600. Each additional pound added would increase fuel costs by a little less than five cents. Peanuts (no pun intended). But as FiveThirtyEight points out, Southwest flew 1.3 million flights in 2013. Given this information, how could the airline save money?

  • Don't provide in-flight entertainment. Obviously, it costs a lot of money to install the screens in each seatback, but each device weighs seven pounds. Annual estimated fuel cost savings: $39.7 million.
  • Discourage people from drinking water. All of those free bottles of water take up a lot of room and cost $2.4 million in fuel. Charging for them decreases the number of bottles the plane needs to carry, plus there's extra revenue.
  • If they're not drinking water, they're not using the bathroom. FiveThirtyEight estimated that if every passenger took care of business before the flight, they'd each be 0.2 liters lighter—a savings of $2.1 million. European discount airline Ryanair almost implemented a plan to charge passengers to use the bathroom. The idea got, um, flushed.

Is this the future awaiting airplane passengers? Bored, parched, and needing to use the bathroom (even though you haven't had anything to drink because you refuse on principal to pay that much for a tiny bottle of water, and if you're not paying for water then you're definitely not paying to use the bathroom)? The next think you know, the airlines will start charging passengers based on what they weigh. Oh wait … one already does. Samoa Air, where "A kilo is a kilo is a kilo." Well, if the swimsuit isn't motivation enough to shed those extra pounds before vacation, maybe a few extra bucks will be.

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