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American Airlines flies past fuel conservation goal

American Airlines flies past fuel conservation goal

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An increase of one cent in jet fuel prices can cost an airline company close to $25 million annually, so smart ones are vigilant about innovative conservation measures.

A hallmark of any transportation company's forward-thinking operational strategy is its ability to squeeze out as much fossil fuel consumption as possible through conservation measures and new technologies. So that was the metric I sought first in the latest American Airlines corporate responsibility report, released in early June.

In last year's report, American Airlines reported that it has manage to save 123 million gallons of fuel during the year. Over the past 12 months, the carrier continued to increase that amount: in 2011, it saved 141 million gallons under the Fuel Smart initiative, which beat its goal of 134 million gallons. For the current fiscal year, American Airlines aims to save 146 million gallons.

This is clearly not just a green measure: When it made up its goal for 2011, American Airlines aimed to save $442 million in operations costs through those fuel savings. Based on a $3.30 per gallon fuel price estimate, the airline probably saved closer to $465 million.

The specific measures that American Airlines has taken to get to this impressive number include both technology investments and smart operational measures:

  • Reducing the use of auxiliary power units while planes are parked at airport gates; this used close to 42 million gallons in 2009 alone, and is a number that American Airlines grounds crews are monitoring closely.
  • Using just one engine as planes taxi, while saves 2.8 million gallons of fuel per year.
  • The use of winglets: installations on the 737 and 757 planes in the American Airlines flight have been completed and the company continues to work on the 767 models. In 2010 alone, this saved 35.4 million gallons and that number is rising.
  • Using tow tractors to bring plans between terminals and maintenance hangers, while saves 3.6 million gallons annually.
  • Reducing the weight of potable water brought on board plans.
  • Adopting new catering carts that are lighter.
  • Looking for other ways to reduce plane weight: if one pound were removed from every aircraft in the American Airlines flight, it would save approximately 11,000 gallons of fuel annually. So, employees continue to look for ways to lighten the load.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure