Employees at American Airlines Help Save on Fuel Costs

American Airlines, one of many commercial carriers facing skyrocketing oil prices, is leaning on its employees to find innovative ways to save fuel emissions and lower its carbon footprint – such as saving $5 million each year by introducing lighter beverage carts.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline has operated a program since 2005 called Fuel Smart, where small steps, such as using lighter materials on board or cutting back engine burn on a taxiway, may save the carrier 139 million gallons of fuel or $371 million in costs this year.

"American really does have a vested interest in being environmentally responsible," says Courtney Wallace, a spokesperson for American, to AOL Travel News. "We can't control the cost of fuel but we can control our fuel conservation."

In 2010, when jet fuel cost about $2.32 a gallon, the airline saved about $285 million – or 123 million gallons of fuel – by cutting back on fuel consumption at the airport, lightening up the weight of the plane and adjusting the aerodynamics of aircraft to make the wings more fuel efficient while flying.

For example, American has saved 1.1 million gallons of fuel annually by removing old telephone equipment, magazine racks, gallery tables and razor outlets from planes.

Currently, the airline is replacing 19,000 catering carts with newer models that weigh 12 pounds lighter. The airline expects the move will save 1.8 million gallons of fuel per year when the carts are fully replaced, equally about $5 million.

By washing the airline's engines, the airline saves about 7.2 million gallons of fuel per year, and reduced CO2 emissions by 60 million pounds. And by towing airplanes between gates and into maintenance facilities, American is saving 3.6 million gallons of fuel and reducing CO2 emissions by 77 million pounds.

The airline has also placed winglets, devices that have been proven to increase the lift-to-drag ratio on aircrafts, on Boeing 737 and 757 aircraft and is currently placing winglets on 767-300 aircraft, saving 35.4 million gallons of fuel per year and reducing CO2 emissions by 754 million pounds.

American Airlines is also looking at new initiatives, such as using lighter cargo containers and chemically treating the aircraft wings to reduce drag on the aircraft.

American has joined other major carriers in raising fares at least six times this year alone, but when the airline tried to raise fares once again earlier this month, none of its competitors matched, forcing the airline to roll back those prices.

American has also joined other carriers in cutting capacity growth, focusing much of its growth strategy on overseas flights, but it realizes it can only trim costs so much without hurting its ability to manage additional traffic.

The airline, which operates about 3,400 flights a day worldwide, estimates that every one cent a gallon increase in the price of fuel translates into $25 million in annual costs. Since 2003, American says that jet fuel costs have risen from about 85 cents a gallon to an estimated $2.67 a gallon in 2011.

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