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Sat, May 24, 2008 - Page 10 News List

Aussie airlines save fuel by easing off the throttle

PINCHING PENNIES The extra time in flight may not mean much to the average passenger, but for budget carrier Jetstar it is money in the bank


Some Australian airlines are flying slowly to save fuel as oil prices surge to record highs, it was revealed yesterday.

Like motorists trying to economize, pilots are easing off the throttle, national carrier Qantas and its budget offshoot Jetstar said.

Dropping the average flying speed on their Airbus A320s by about 10 knots or 20kph would save millions of dollars a year, Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway said.

“We are conducting a trial of flying the aircraft at slightly lower airspeeds,” he said.

Airlines have a cost index from 0-99, in which “99 is what is usually simply called putting your foot to the floor — that’s essentially maximum fuel burn.

“Zero is the minimum, so its essentially how you ride the accelerator,” he said.

Jetstar was testing dropping its cost index from 30 to 10 as the price of aviation fuel soars along with oil, which hit all-time highs of more than US$135 a barrel this week.

“Essentially it means a reduction in speed of around 10 knots or 20km an hour over the course of a journey,” he said.

The slower speeds would add about six minutes to a trans-Australia flight from Melbourne to Perth, which normally takes between three-and-a-half to four hours depending on direction and other factors, Westaway said.

The extra few minutes do not appear to have raised the ire of passengers, who probably have not noticed among all the factors that can slow a journey, from delays ahead of takeoff to circling before getting the go-ahead to land.

On long-haul flights, those minutes would multiply and mark a strange reversal of the ambition to achieve ever-faster connections around the world since the invention of flying.

But with oil supplies finite and price rises appearing limitless, jet pilots driving like cash-strapped commuters appear to be a sign of the times.

Qantas, one of the world’s major airlines, which dwarfs Jetstar’s annual fuel consumption of 3.1 million barrels a year, issued a terse statement on which it would not elaborate.

“Qantas has used variable speed flight plans within its schedules over the last two years as a fuel conservation initiative,” it said. “This practice has led to fuel savings and lower carbon emissions without any significant impact on flight times.”

Qantas announced on Thursday that it would increase international air fares to counter the impact of rising fuel costs by about 4 percent from June 4, after a 3 percent hike earlier this month.

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