From carpets to cargo containers: How the world's largest airlines get lean

Glen White
- Lean - Apr 20, 2015

For airlines, every penny counts. When it comes to saving money, one of the key areas airlines must target is the ways in which they can make their flights lighter and more efficient.

From the size of the seats to reducing the drag on the wings, airlines need to constantly asses and re-assess what they can do to reduce weight and fuel use. So just what are airlines doing to bring down the weight and increase the efficiency on every flight?

Making every component lighter

It stands to reason: The less everything on an airplane weighs, the less the craft weighs overall and the more efficient it will be to fly. To that end, airlines have started paying attention to the weight of every last component.

For example, Lufthansa reduced the weight of their cargo containers on their aircraft to reduce the overall weight.

Major airlines around the world have been re-assessing the weight of everything from the seats to the carpets. Every little change, such as choosing lighter seat models or even choosing less dense carpets, makes a difference.

Choosing newer and lighter craft

As the article "The New and Improved Way to Save Money" points out, when it comes to controlling spending, it all adds up. That's why airlines need to seriously consider where they are spending their money when it comes to making the best aircraft choices. The more economical choice in the long term is to choose to buy newer and lighter aircraft.

For example, Northwest Airlines estimates that the Airbus 330 jet consumes 38 percent less fuel than its predecessor, the DC-10. By investing in more efficient aircraft that have been designed to fly better and lighter, airlines can save money on fuel costs.

Using space more effectively

The design of an airplane's interior is of paramount importance when it comes to making planes more efficient. The best possible use of space means that no space will be wasted, which in turn often clears the way for each airliner to carry more passengers.

For example, Boeing made its lavatories smaller by eliminating spare space behind the sink, allowing for four extra seats to be added per flight.

Meanwhile, American Airlines switched to thinner and lighter seats, making room for an entire extra row of seating.

Flying more efficiently

Making an airplane more efficient isn't just about physical weight and use of space; the way the plane flies and uses fuel is important too. Streamlined designs, such as using wing tip devices to reduce drag during flight, can increase an airplane's efficiency. Speed matters, too.

By choosing to fly just a little slower, airlines can reduce fuel consumption without having a huge impact on flight times. Airlines should also pay attention to their flight plans to ensure the most efficient routes are chosen.

Pay attention to every detail

When it comes to making airplanes better efficient and decreasing their weight, every tiny detail counts.

For example, Virgin Atlantic estimated that they could save millions simply by using a new food tray design that allows more meals to be stacked per meal cart, essentially reducing the number of meal carts needed per flight.

Even seemingly small details such as keeping a plane clean can make a difference, as dirt can increase drag and lower fuel efficiency.

From using less water in bathroom faucets to giving flight attendants tablets instead of paper manuals for accessing passenger information, there are many ways in which the little details can add up to significant savings for airlines.

Every little thing counts when it comes to saving weight and saving fuel. As aircraft become lighter and more efficient, so airlines can reduce their fuel bills, a saving which will make a big difference to their budgets, and which can also be passed on to passengers.

Tristan Anwyn writes on a wide variety of topics, including branding, inbound marketing, and saving money on manufacturing.

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