Airline Industry in a Quandary Over Fuel Surcharges and the Search for More Efficient Planes by Kane Minks

Aircraft leaves a contrail in sky. Kane Minks

by Kane Minks

The airline industry has been adding fuel surcharges to the tickets of passengers for some years, and increasing them as fuel costs jump. Yet, there have been no reduction in charges since 2009 despite decreases in fuel costs.

A study by Carlson Wagonlit Travel found these facts and more, demonstrating that the airline industry has been profiting off their customers through unreasonable fuel surcharge fees. The study found that fuel surcharges have risen 53 percent since 2011, a stark contrast to the 24 percent increase in airline fuel costs in the same study time frame. Clearly the airlines are using the fuel fees as a way to increase profits. They may find it more difficult to justify the exorbitant charges going forward.

A new law requires all airlines based in the U.S. advertise the full fare, which includes all of the components that make up the ticket price. The fuel surcharges must be disclosed, making it more difficult for airlines to justify the exorbitant charges. The new transparency rules may turn passengers off to the idea of taking vacations that require air travel.

Airlines are using hidden fuel fees as a way to stay competitive in tighter markets, and lowering fares in order to lure in more passengers. However, the fuel fees can make up to half of a ticket price for international flights, which may lead to a reduction in the amount of passengers for those flights.

The airline industry is also facing pressure in areas related to the use of jet fuel in the form of carbon taxes from the European Union. The European Union is requiring all flights taking off or landing in Europe pay for carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by aircraft. The program begins next year, and initially provides 85 percent of the cost of required permits for free. The rest can be traded off with less polluting airliners. Countries around the world are balking at the requirement by the EU, and the issue is still not settled. It’s a sure bet the extra charges are going to be passed onto passengers.

Volatility in the cost of fuel and threats of carbon taxes is causing the airline industry to purchase new, more fuel efficient planes. The goal is to reduce the amount of inefficient, older planes that are in the current fleets, and move to planes that get better fuel mileage. Some of the redesigns are expected to get anywhere between 13 to 15 percent improvement in efficiency, reducing the amount of fuel used.

The current state of the airline industry is a tenuous one; especially with the cost of fuel cutting sharply into already low profit margins. The amount of flights initiated around the world is increasing on an annual basis, but it only takes a small action to dramatically affect success and passenger satisfaction.

Article By: Kane Minks

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