Alaska Airlines Leads Fuel Efficiency Ranking
A new report released by the International Council on Clean Transportation reveals that Alaska Airlines is at the top of the fuel efficiency ranking. This is the first time ICCT quantifies fuel performance for U.S. airlines. Along with its regional partner, Horizon Air, Alaska led all 15 mainline U.S. carriers as the most fuel-efficient airline operating in the United States in 2010, outperforming the least fuel-efficient carrier by 26 percent.
"We have made significant investments in our fleet, technology and processes to improve our fuel performance, which is a key part of Alaska's commitment to be the airline industry leader in environmental stewardship. These sustainability efforts also help us keep our costs down in order to provide better value for our customers," said Keith Loveless, Alaska Air Group's executive vice president and general counsel.
The ICCT based the study on fuel-consumption data reported annually by airlines to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The study used a methodology developed by a team of researchers at the Federal Aviation Administration's National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research (NEXTOR) at the University of California, Berkeley, to evaluate fuel efficiency based on passenger miles between origin and destination as well as airports served and/or flight frequency. Researchers looked at fuel burned and identified inefficiencies, such as the use of older technology, circuitous routing and taxiing with two engines instead of one.
The environmental consequence of fuel efficiency is fewer emissions, which were reduced by 30 percent. One of the measures the airline took to achieve this was migrating to exclusively flying the Boeing 737 and Bombardier Q400, the most fuel-efficient aircraft in their classes. Alaska Airlines also worked with the FAA and Port of Seattle to implement new arrival routes at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport using satellite-based navigation rather than ground-based radar. The shorter routes, which became operational last spring, save fuel, lower carbon emissions and noise, and reduce pilot-controller workloads
Besides fuel efficiency, Alaska Airlines has taken other measures to boost its sustainability efforts in other ways, such as using sustainable ware for in-flight meals and beverages. Horizon Air recycles 91 percent of all paper, plastic, aluminum and glass generated onboard while Alaska cabin crews divert 80 percent of recyclable materials.
Clean energy is also part of the plan. In Seattle and San Jose, solar-powered boarding ramps are being used to enable passengers to enter and exit an aircraft faster by using the front and rear doors simultaneously. Besides solar, biofuels are also being trialed. The company operated 75 passenger flights powered by a 20 percent biofuel blend in November 2011. These flights demonstrated the viability and need for an adequate, affordable and sustainable supply of alternative aviation fuel. The biofuel project grew out of Alaska Air Group's involvement in Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest, the first U.S. regional group of its kind to study alternative aviation fuels.
Image credit: Alaska Airlines