Pilots Bristle As American Airline Tells Them To Fly With Less Fuel

Extra fuel is joining peanuts and magazines on the list of things American Airlines wants to ditch at the gate. The airline announced plans this week to save cash by using “scientifically precise” computer models to load less fuel. If pilots want more, they’ll need to submit a request in writing.

Union leaders claim that’s intimidation, because the now-required paperwork, called a P-2 form, is tracked by American’s management and could be used against the pilot if his or her job performance is ever called into question.

“It’s being touted as a corporate efficiency program, but perhaps it has gone too far,” said Dennis Tajer, an American pilot and spokesman for its pilots union, the Allied Pilots Association. “It has the ability to affect the margin of safety and reliability. That is our concern.”

“We’re literally on average talking 10 to 15 minutes of fuel,” Tajer said. “It doesn’t seem like much to us to ensure the higher success rate of actually reaching your destination if unanticipated delays occur. We see this as a rather absurd policy because it undermines the reliability of American’s operation.”

The decision won’t affect passenger safety, but it could result in annoying flight diversions during bad weather. Pilots will still have the ultimate authority to determine whether a plane can fly, but American’s decision shows that airlines are still eager to cut costs wherever possible. “[W]e want the captains to trust us,” explained a spokesperson for the always-trustworthy airline.

Cost-cutting measure fuels debate at American Airlines [The Chicago Tribune]


Edit Your Comment

  1. pj1280 says:

    I don’t see what the big deal is. We doctors have been doing this with insurance companies for years.

    • harrier666 says:

      Trust me. As the consumerist resident airline pilot who may or may not work very closely with this airline, it is a bloody nightmare. The more these execs, who couldn’t fly a paper airplane, try to tell us how to fly, the less safe the job gets. Feeling pressure from those who hold your job in your hands to compromise safety is something that should never happen. We either have to take delays and piss off our passengers (which we really really don’t want to do) or fly with borderline fuel.

      We pilots like to have as many options as possible up there. When we are forced to reduce fuel (which, what this article doesn’t say, is that we already have significantly) we reduce our options.

      If one single exec at the above mentioned airline were to take a slight paycut, then the fuel measures wouldn’t even be needed.

    • consumer2468 says:

      I hope the ‘no big deal’ comment was meant to be sarcastic. What has been done in healthcare for years in America IS a big deal – a life and death big deal. Much of what has been done by health insurance companies in the U.S. and by the health system in the U.S. for years should have been criminal.

  2. Commenter24 says:

    I’m a pilot and I don’t really see the problem here. The ultimate decision on safety is left to the Captain; if he doesn’t think there is enough fuel on board, he doesn’t take off. The airline saying “You can’t take way more than you need because it’s costing us too much money” doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

    • shockwaver1 says:

      I think what they are worried about is if they request more fuel over and over again, not only will it delay their planes, it will also make them look bad to the company for simply wanting a small buffer of fuel.

      I don’t know about you, but when I fly I want to make sure that we have more then enough fuel to get to where I’m going. I’ve had to circle airports before and if they trim the “buffer” down another 15 minutes then that’s just even more diversions that will happen.

      • Commenter24 says:

        The FAA requires that the airplane have certain reserves, ensuring “more than enough” fuel is onboard. As for the concern that the pilots will “look bad” if they routinely request more fuel, perhaps those pilots need to evaluate whether or not they have a real, justifiable reason for the extra fuel, rather than just “I would feel better if I had more.” There is a balance between a reasonable fuel reserve and an excessive fuel reserve; I think the airline is simply trying to bring all the pilots closer to a “Reasonable” fuel reserve. Like any profession or activity, there are pilots who insist on having WAY more fuel than they need. That’s fine when you’re paying the bill, but you can’t reasonably expect someone else to foot the bill to satisfy your paranoia.

        • harrier666 says:

          I don’t know what kind of pilot you are, but as an airline pilot myself, as afore mentioned, who may or may not work for the above airline, it takes ONE flight in your career when you can’t make the safest choice (eg. diversion to another airport that has the best emergency equipment) because you agreed with min fuel to never ever ever have the attitude that you display in the post above.

      • ShadowFalls says:

        I’d agree. Plus, if you don’t have enough fuel, they have no choice but to bump you to the head of the line so you do not crash. How is it fair to the other airlines for them acting more responsibly? I know corporations want to save money, but risking safety for it shouldn’t be something you should consider an acceptable exchange.

    • AI says:

      Yeah, I have the right to refuse unsafe work too, but I’m sure response #1 by airlines for pilots that refuse to take off is an unemployed pilot.

      • Commenter24 says:

        Airlines are different than your average job. There is intense FAA scrutiny over flight operations, plus the unions. The chances of a pilot getting fired for refusing to take an objectively unsafe flight are incredibly, probably infinitesimally, small.

        • shepd says:

          If you do, however, even just quit because you feel the job is not safe enough, you will never, ever, ever work again in the airline industry. You need to be willing to find a new career, as whistleblowers at Alaska Airlines found out when they said the extended service schedules there would cause an accident (and such an accident did occur, killing all aboard).

          • Commenter24 says:

            While that might be true, airlines aren’t the only employers of pilots out there. 135 operators, private flight departments, fractional operators, etc.

            • harrier666 says:

              And as a career pilot in a family of them, good luck making the jump from 121 to 135/91 flying! Even without considering the current job market, it isn’t easy.

              And when they ask why you left, and you say you felt it was unsafe? No one cares.

    • Mr_Mantastic says:

      Well if the FAA was more efficient, it could save the airlines a lot of money. I’m only a few years into my career as an air traffic controller, but already several times I’ve been told that we’re holding either ATLs or MCOs , only for flow control to release an aircraft with the holding destination. Soooo…instead of the plane sitting on the ground and saving fuel, it takes off, slows to 250 kts, then enters holding.

    • cowboyesfan says:

      Where does the extra fuel go that isn’t used? Isn’t it just there for the next flight?

      • PSUSkier says:

        Yes, it is. But it’s also extra weight on the plane which requires the turbofan engines to burn more fuel to carry it. Hence the potential savings.

    • Cobra4455 says:

      Actually the ultimate decision is up to the maintenance crew. If he doesn’t sign off on it there is no flight and they are extremely cautious with their decisions because if something fails they are up shit creek with the FAA. Even a beverage cart repairmen can delay a flight or ground a plane if he believes it to be necessary.

  3. dreamfish says:

    I can potentially see this as a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of fuel reserves. After all, ending up in holding patterns over busy aiports is a fact of life nowadays but those with smaller reserves are the ones who more quickly make ‘fuel emergency’ requests to ATC and get to land ahead of their original slot.

    Likely other airlines will try this trick?

    • sonneillon says:

      The only problem is that they get fined $25,000 every time they do that. If enough planes get hit with the emergency fuel landing then it will cost more money then it’s worth.

      • graylits says:

        It’s an argument about how much of safety buffer there should be. Hell they could give enough fuel to cover every circumstance that has ever happened in history and there would be one guy that would want more. In a cost vs safety tradeoff you have to set the bar somewhere and there will always be people who argue it needs to go further one way. Without meaningful numbers, you can’t make judgments from this article.

  4. AI says:

    They better start learning how to glide… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider

  5. gamehendge2000 says:

    Also remember that fuel is heavy. The heavier the plane the more fuel is burned. So it’s not simply a factor of topping off the gas tanks, where that excess 10-15 mins of fuel is used for the next flight.

    So if 99% of planes land with excess fuel, there is the hard cost of the fuel burned to transport extra fuel.

    Nothing to see here.

    • B says:

      Except for the 1% who don’t have extra fuel. I’d rather not be on a plane when it runs out.

      • gamehendge2000 says:

        That 1% (actually more like .001%) will make an intermediate destination fuel stop or be re-routed, not crash.

        But thanks for playing.

        • B says:

          When I fly, I’d rather know that barring weather, the plane will get me to my destination, not get re-routed to some other airport.

        • jamar0303 says:

          I’m paying for a 1-stop flight. If I wanted more I would have specified them at booking time.

    • aja175 says:

      You make a good point. I was wondering what the difference was if they had extra fuel.

  6. dragonfire81 says:

    My concern is that the airline is going to majorly pressure pilots to be stingy on the extra fuel requests to keep costs down. This is one of those things that sounds like a good idea on paper but as soon as 200 people die in a crash caused by a lack of fuel.

    • Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:

      I doubt there will actually be any crashes. There are plenty of low fuel warnings and pilots have a lot more training and situational awareness than the average say…commuter who runs out of fuel on the freeway.

      More likely a miscalculation by the bean counters would cause a flight to have to land at an intermediate destination to top off. Which would result in net lost time and revenue to the airline, not to mention annoyance to the customer.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        My memory is a little fuzzy but I was under the impression that there is a minimum amount of fuel required by the FAA and fines kick in if the emergency reserves are actually tapped. Therefor, if a plan “runs out of fuel”, it’s actually tapping into the reserves and not literally running out of fuel.

  7. Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:

    Ooo…can’t wait till the obligatory “rounding error” ends up causing a trans-continental flight to have to land in say, Casper, Wyoming.

  8. Starsmore says:

    The pilots should just respond to the airlines cutting costs the same way the average person does… just bring some more from home. Works for replacing peanuts.

  9. pantheonoutcast says:

    From the article:

    “The more excess fuel that is carried in flight, the more fuel gets burned.”

    Why? My car has a 17 gallon tank; it is a seven mile trip from my apartment to my job. When I get there, I don’t circle around 1100 times until the fuel is used up.

    Isn’t the plane going to be used again in the near future for another flight? Use the excess fuel then.

    And if the problem is the weight of the excess fuel, then how about eliminating two rows of seats on every flight and charging the remaining passengers an extra dollar or whatever to offset the cost. I’ll gladly pay a nominal amount more to fly without having my knees in my chest for 7 hours.

    • B says:

      Fuel has weight, and that extra weight has to be carried by your car, or by a plane, if you’re carrying it around.

    • Commenter24 says:

      The heavier the plane, the more fuel it burns. A not-quite fully-loaded 737 burns around 5000lbs of fuel per hour, so 15 minutes of fuel is roughly 1250lbs. The extra fuel adds weight, which increases fuel burn and decreases climb and cruise performance.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        Yeah, I get that, so it makes more sense for the airline to reduce 1250 pounds of unnecessary weight in the cabin rather than in the fuel tanks. The average weight of an American is what, 175 pounds or so? That’s a reduction of 8 people and the weight of their chairs. I’m sure the other 125 + passengers can make up the difference in lost ticket sales to eight people with a nominal charge.

        • Commenter24 says:

          It doesn’t make sense to reduce the number of revenue-producing passengers in order to carry unnecessary fuel.

          • pantheonoutcast says:

            The article points out that extra fuel is used in times of flight diversion, inclement weather, holding patterns in congested airports, and other emergencies.

            It’s hardly “unnecessary.” If it was unnecessary, no plane would ever carry extra fuel.

            Cutting 8 seats from each flight, and offsetting the monetary loss by raising the remaining ticket prices by a nominal amount would result in no revenue loss. 133 passengers X $300 a ticket is precisely the same amount of revenue as 125 passengers X $319.20 per ticket. Most people would gladly pay an extra $20 for more leg and arm room. Also, the decrease in baggage weight would result in a more fuel efficient flight as well.

            • Big Mama Pain says:

              In the article, it points out that the FAA regulations require all aircraft to have 45 minutes of extra fuel for intercontinental, 30 minutes for trans; American Airlines requires 60 minutes right now, and have only dipped below 88 minutes less than half a percent of all flights. It makes total sense for AA to change it’s own policy to match the FAA regs. RTFA : )

              • ttw1 says:

                Gee, it makes a lot more sense when you read the article.

              • pantheonoutcast says:

                Thanks, I RTFA. I just disagree with it. Imagine that – someone having a differing opinion.

                • Big Mama Pain says:

                  Hey now! I didn’t imply that your opinion was any less valid-I’m all for extra leg room! I often think that we as airline customers played a large part in the sardine effect on airlines, though, with our demands for ever cheaper flights. But, if you displaced 8 people per flight to save on weight, wouldn’t that have a major impact on people getting flights to where they needed, when they needed?

              • jamar0303 says:

                That’s ignoring the fact that landing at, for instance, JFK or LaGuardia is going to take more fuel than intended due to holding patterns and weather (and as for refueling, if I wanted an extra stop I would have bought a ticket with an extra stop). The ideal alternative would be to start using an airport with no holding patterns like, say, Islip but apparently no one but Southwest wants to do that.

            • Commenter24 says:

              I would prefer my airfare to go down rather than up, especially when there is no change in safety.

            • cowboyesfan says:

              American did just that with their “more room through out coach” strategy. It turns, out people will not spend $0.01 for more legroom in coach. People rank flights by price and always pick the cheapest.

            • halfcuban says:

              Amazing idea. Reducing the number of seats in a cabin in order to put in bigger seats with more amenities. I can’t believe no one has ever thought of this before. All those years of walking by First Class and Business class sections and no one has ever thunk to do this!

    • halfcuban says:

      As others pointed out, your car doesn’t have lift so the weight of the fuel is negligible. On an airplane where lift must be generated, every additional pound, including fuel, makes it harder to get off the ground. Adding additional fuel when its not necessary could result in reduced fuel performance. Its kind of a situation of diminishing returns. The more fuel, the less miles you get out of each additional gallon of fuel. At some point, adding more fuel, unless absolutely necessary (such as the case of a long-haul transcontinental flight), will yield no significant plus in flight time.

      • TardCore says:

        Wrong, it does make a difference in fuel economy. That’s why drag racers only take on enough fuel to get them to the end of the race. Carrying extra equals a weight or economy penalty. This is generally not a big deal because if your car runs out of gas you pull over, it’s a little harder to do that on an airplane.

        • halfcuban says:

          Except it doesn’t because the “extra’ fuel were talking about isn’t really “extra” as regulations already require enough fuel to not only divert, but to divert and be in a holding pattern for a period of time.. And no, the fuel economy of your car is not significantly impacted by the weight of the fuel in your tank, because it doesn’t comprise a large portion of the body weight of the car (and NOT a drag racer, which is essentially a large engine strapped to a fiber glass body). The fuel on a plane, however, can make up almost 1/3 of the total weight that the plane needs to lift. So yes, carrying extra fuel is a case of diminishing returns and carrying extra when not necessary is just a waste of fuel, not really a buffer against anything.

    • twophrasebark says:

      This is physics.

      The more fuel you carry, the heavier the plane. The heavier the plane, the more fuel you need.

  10. B says:

    Dear American Airlines,
    Think how much money you can save if you fly without passengers, too. I, for one, will help you achieve this goal by never flying with your airline again.

  11. catnapped says:

    What’s another crash here and there? Pffft….

  12. wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

    This isn’t disturbing at all.


  13. Randell says:

    Sorry, but American Airlines should not have any say on the amount of fuel its pilots want on their planes. I do not want insurance companies telling my doctor how they can save money when they do open heart surgery. I certainly do not want the stock holders telling a pilot how to do his job.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      Insurance companies already do that.

    • Tim says:

      It’s more like if the insurance company tells your doctor that no matter what complications arise, no matter what your age, previous conditions, weight, etc. are, the doctor MUST do the surgery this way.

      • Randell says:

        It is still the same. No matter what the circumstances the insurance company should have ZERO input into my doctors decision. If they choose not to pay, then that is between me and my doctor since I signed a responsibility agreement PRIOR to surgery.
        The pilot is the ultimate authority on fuel matters. Idiot bean counters do not matter.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          “If they choose not to pay, then that is between me and my doctor since I signed a responsibility agreement PRIOR to surgery.”

          It’s also between your doctor and your insurance company if it’s an in-network provider.

  14. NightSteel says:

    I’d like to know what ‘scientifically precise’ entails, exactly. There is a crapload to keep in mind when dealing with fuel, such as average and current time waiting in line before takeoff, wind, weather and other atmospheric conditions, average delays before landing, and so on, and these things are not constants. I understand trying to cut costs where possible and reasonable, but the intimidation factor of making pilots fill out forms to override the computer, well, I find that pretty skeevy. And what happens when the vaunted database fails and spits out incorrect figures?

    • Commenter24 says:

      The pilots should be relying entirely on the computer to do the calculations. Part of the responsibility of being a pilot is checking and double checking fuel calculations. Any pilot who relies entirely on the computers numbers and doesn’t independently verify the numbers is a fool who doesn’t deserve a license.

      • NightSteel says:

        I never said the pilots should rely entirely on the database’s calculations. The problem with this ‘initiative’ is that it takes that judgement away from the pilots.

        I think the idea of having a database to more precisely calculate this kind of information is a great idea. But subjecting the pilots to potential recriminations when they override the database is a crappy idea. And as much as AA might wish it was, the database will not be perfect.

      • harrier666 says:

        Any pilot knows the least three useful items to a pilot are the runway behind you, the airspace above you, the fuel you left behind in the truck.

        I don’t know what you fly, but your attitude is dangerous and doesn’t reflect the reality of airline flying, at all. I won’t normally call out a person on consumerist, but an attitude that puts lives at risk is one I won’t leave unchallenged.

        Defending management, who gives themselves bonuses every year higher than the fuel savings they will see with these latest changes, is a fools task. We, the Pilots, should be the say of what happens in our cockpit. I can tell from your posts you have never fought with dispatch to increase fuel load. Unexpected weather enroute happens, unexpected runway closures happen. Yes, we have SOME fuel on board for those occurrences, but the FAA minimums are just that MINIMUMS. Any airline that adheres ONLY to those minimums are unsafe, and most don’t. Any PILOT who adheres only to those minimums is an idiot. Aircraft performance charts are based on new aircraft in specific conditions, your training should have taught you this. You haven’t flown nearly long enough if you aren’t willing to fight tooth and nail for every buffer you possibly can. And, until you do, stay out of my pattern.

  15. taney71 says:

    This is going to end well.

  16. Yoya says:

    Alright.. Lets say we are flying over the ocean and we some how enter a storm that causes us to re-route or something along this good fortune. What if this little detour happens to be a further destination then the original, and it would take an additional 10-20 minutes to get there… Oh wait we didn’t top it off… Hello ocean.. am I right?

    • Con Seanne-BZZZZZZZZZZZZ says:

      You have a minimum of 45 minutes of extra fuel. They will NEVER cut it THAT close. Too risky.

  17. oldwiz65 says:

    American Airlines is the “always-trustworthy airline”? I can see the announcement now: “Sorry folks, we will be unable to reach our planned destination due to lack of fuel so we are landing at the nearest airport. We should be able to refuel in 6 hours or so and you will unfortunately have to stay on the plane in the dark. Again, sorry about that.”

    • GameHen says:

      I was on a flight from Vegas to Seattle about a year ago where after about 30 minutes into the take-off line (behind about 20 other planes), the pilot came on and said, “sorry folks, we have to go back to the gate and get more fuel. We didn’t anticipate the length of time in line to take-off and don’t have enough fuel to get us to Seattle”. That was not a comfortable feeling.

  18. COBBCITY says:

    “The decision won’t affect passenger safety, but it could result in annoying flight diversions during bad weather.” How can you report, with a straight face, that a decision to carry less fuel on a plane will NEVER affect passenger safety??? What makes the writer of this story 100% certain that will never occur???

  19. twophrasebark says:

    I think this is reasonable.

    The flight is controlled by a computer and if the computer says how much fuel you need, that works for me. Really, if you can’t trust the computer to estimate the fuel, then maybe consider that the entire process of commercial flying is basically sitting in a 100 ton metal tube that is propelled by a controlled explosion. It’s pretty much insane. As my physics teacher said, you’re not flying through the air, you’re falling. I trust the computer to delay that until we safely land.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      Passengers can’t even trust the airlines to use a computer that will accurately count the number of seats they’ve booked on any particular flight – what makes you think they can accurately model flight times with hundreds of variables?

      • Commenter24 says:

        Airlines intentionally over-book; that’s been the norm for years.

        • pantheonoutcast says:

          Oh, that makes it ok, then. I’m going to go get me some slaves and deny women the right to vote – it was the norm for so many years, it surely must be tolerable.


          • Randell says:

            Not relevant to the story. overbooking NEEDS to happen. Imagine the scenario. Tornados sweep through Detroit and cancel hundreds of flights on Wednesday night. You are booked on one. Sorry,. I can only put you on the flight you were scheduled for. It was cancelled. Your only choice is to pay for a new ticket. Oh wait, put me on the plane that got cancelled. Oops, that is already booked with other people who PLANNED to fly Thursday. Now compound that by hundreds of airports nationwide that all need to interlink to make the system a success. Should airlines be required to have “reserve” planes in every airport just in case? Should they only sell 75% of their seats for these events? Plans change, people miss flights, delays happen. connections can’t be made due to issues not airline related.

      • partofme says:

        The very same reason that we trust these things to not fall out of the sky: the aerospace engineers who design them and are used to dealing with the hundreds of variables that are involved. However, my statement supposes that such computers will have algorithms designed by actual aerospace engineers and not computer scientists with their machine learning techniques (will keep you delta away from dying, 1-epsilon of the time!). There are legitimate concerns for why pilots should be able to request more fuel without risk of repercussions. However, at the very least, computer calculations should be done. If not just on the predictive side, for the sake of the analysis side. Then pilots can see “oh man, I’ve had double the FAA’s estimate for additional fuel left on every single flight this year.” Then, we might get everyone on board, slowly but surely.

      • halfcuban says:

        Because they do it every day, with no problems. The last airplane emergency due to a MISCALCULATION (not a maintenance problem that caused a fuel problem) was Air Canada 147 and that was almost 30 years ago. What exacerbated that situation was the fact that the 767 had no flight engineer, the third “pilot” who traditionally had manned the fuel systems and hydraulics amongst other things. Confusion over calculations and the use of the flight computer led to a foul up on the liters to kg’s conversion which resulted in the flight gliding to a landing at another airport (or in this case, a former airport that was no a drag racing strip.).

  20. teqjack says:

    The complaint seems to be that pilots must sign forms if they think more fuel is a good idea. Of course, they colud overwhelm the system by getting every pilot to request an extra hundred gallons (circa 1000 pounds?) for every flight.

    As a potential passenger, I am more worried about how stringent/stingy the use of the computer models will be. Will they allow for weather predictions? Circumstances requiring waits on the tarmac (like the ones in which passengers are kept on board for several hours awaiting clearance)?

  21. Tim says:

    Something tells me the money you save from using a little bit less fuel is a lot smaller than the money you spend diverting a flight that doesn’t have enough fuel to finish the route.

    I mean, I’m sure the possibility of diverting a flight goes into their uber-scientific calculations. But if you truly factor in that chance, how much money do you really save?

    Also, I’d be much more comfortable with this if the pilots not only had final say on the amount of fuel, but weren’t being pressure and basically threatened with firing if they asked for more fuel.

    • gamehendge2000 says:

      If 1/2 of 1 percent of flights are re-routed, compared to saving exces fuel burn on the remaining 99.5%, they are saving huge.

    • halfcuban says:

      And when was the last time a plane was diverted for fuel? I can tell you that actually since its only happen in modern time’s ONCE, and exactly once, due to a miscalculation. And that was Air Canada Flight 143. Every other instance there has been a mechanical or pilot failure of some sort (a leak in a fuel line, a computer that was messed up, a navigational error on the pilot’s part) that has caused the situation. In one situation, despite having sufficient on-board reserves for diverting, a pilot chose to continue to fly while seeking to find out the source of another mechanical problem, failing to keep track of the fuel, and THAT resulted in an accident. But besides Flight 143, no one has ever managed to miscalculate the fuel leading to an accident that I am aware of.

  22. Fantoche_de_Chaussette says:

    Every pilot is taught, from day one, to do everything they can to make their flight as safe as possible.

    Intentionally “cutting it close” on fuel reserves goes against every safety instinct that has been drilled into them for their entire career.

    I hope that pilots flood the system with “extra fuel” requests until American Airlines’ drops this penny-wise, pound-foolish policy.

    And that if the airline tries to subtly retaliate against the pilots for it, that the Pilot’s Union comes down on them like a ton of bricks.

  23. OnePumpChump says:

    Distance / Distance per unit of fuel at average wind speed and direction = how much you’re getting AND NOT ONE DROP MORE. That’s science, fucker. Now get back to your 20 man crash pad and get some rest, you’ve got another 16 hour shift in 6 hours.

    • Tim says:

      YEAH. Now here’s some speed and your tiny-ass paycheck.

      Actually, the crashpad lifestyle is usually associated with regional airline pilots, and I’m almost completely sure this only applies to American Airlines. Of course, it’s probably worse with regional airlines, since they just get a single payment from the main airline per flight, so they’re out to cut costs like whoa.

  24. VouxCroux says:

    The US Air Force has set a speed limit of 300 knots (or was it 300 mph?) in an attempt to save fuel. Fuel costs are one of the largest expenditures for the Air Force or for any airline. Of course they want to save money. Whatever.

    • Mr_Mantastic says:

      Is that true airspeed or ground speed? What is the maximum speed when they transition to mach?

  25. ScottCh says:

    In these responses people seem to be overly trusting of the computer estimate of required fuel. My question is, who sets the estimation parameters that the computer uses? Is there some “honesty seal” that keeps AA from making adjustments to those parameters? What’s to keep them from introducing a software update that carves a few percent off those numbers when they believe they can get away with it? My money is on the experienced pilot’s recommendation. If he or she is a regular pilot for that route and knows the equipment, I’ll go with their instincts every time.

    • halfcuban says:

      What computer estimate? Most of the fuel estimate come from an airline’s flight ops, whom run the numbers on fuel for a given situation, taking into account weather, temperature, etc. While the individual pilot can always request more, and they themselves can do the math, considering the routine nature of commercial flight, its doubtful that there is anything significantly off on the numbers. Heck, most pilots run the same routes all the time (though not necessarily) so I doubt they are going to let a wild fluctuation in fuel pass by them.

    • partofme says:

      The honesty seal is the FAA regulation requiring X amount of fuel reserves (X being determined by the type of flight), which you would know if you RTFA. These calculations are all wide open for scrutiny, as are all actual fuel measurements.

  26. Blious says:

    Yea, less fuel is brilliant….I am sure all riders will be happy to hear that.

    What’s next…only use 1 wing? We need to save parts of the plane.

    • dreamfish says:

      Landing gear is very heavy and only used for a fraction of the flight. Get rid of it (and make for more exciting landings!)

  27. Riroon13 says:

    There’s another company that tried to save a few bucks by cutting costs dealing with safety precautions.

    Their name was BP.

    One accident related to running out of fuel + 125 negligent death lawsuits = game over for AA

    • catnapped says:

      Not to worry…the pro-business people will inform us that it’s the passengers own faults for dying in a crash and how they don’t deserve a dime because of it!

  28. kcvaliant says:

    Awesome.. It will only take one crashed plane for this reason to make them question it..

  29. wild homes loves you but chooses darkness! says:

    I understand that the airlines want to do this for reasons of profitability… but if it has even a minor chance of affecting the safety of my flight should unforeseen delays occur in the air, I’m definitely going to avoid airlines choosing this reduced fuel plan. My being alive > your bottom line. Sorry, airlines.

  30. veg-o-matic says:

    ol’ Fred Taylor works up at AA corporate?? You don’t say..

    I really wish he’d stay dead.

  31. PsiCop says:

    I don’t see any evidence that this change in airline policy COULD NOT affect passenger safety. It likely wouldn’t, but that’s not 100% certain. Such a categorical conclusion is not warranted.

  32. DovS says:

    I realize this isn’t a problem for safety but it’s definitely a problem for PR! Does AA not understand how greedy it looks when they say that they’re going to cut back on the fuel for your flight? Do the airlines simply feel that their reputations are so bad rock-bottom bad already that it really doesn’t matter what they do anymore?

  33. sopmodm14 says:

    if there are any delays, they still better have enough fuel to loop around, or at least backup plans for emergency landings

  34. psanf says:

    I understand that it takes fuel to lift so much weight into the air, and less fuel means less weight which means less fuel burned, but no.
    NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!
    You don’t play with people lives and risk a plane falling out of the air just because some idiot in a tower wearing a suit want’s to save a few bucks.

    • Commenter24 says:

      Planes don’t “fall out of the air.”. Please have some understanding of aerodynamics and physics before commenting.

  35. JuanHunt says:

    Sounds great, until a plane funs out of fuel and crashes because of ground crew mistake or equipment failure. Then, the airline execs should go to jail for criminally negligent homicide. Or, just buy lighter planes, they are available but do cost more initially, which was hard to justify when fuel was cheap.

  36. El_Red says:

    Note to myself, not flying American Airlines… ever…

  37. luftmenschPhil says:

    The FAA will probably investigate this cost-cutting measure

  38. nucwin83 says:

    The Federal Aviation Regulations require generally a 30-45 minute reserve for domestic operations and a two hour reserve for international operations. That can’t be overridden by the airline. I think this is much ado about nothing.

  39. Tvhargon says:

    Can’t they just use the extra fuel on the next flight?

  40. SiddhimaAmythaon says:

    the irony is that the first time a series of bad events causes a jet to run out of fuel it will land on a mall or something and wipe out all the previous savings 5 fold in legal fees damages and wrongful death payouts.

  41. P_Smith says:

    Would you drive across a desert without extra fuel cans, water and survival equipment in case of emergencies? Just because an emergency hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it can’t.

    I’m surprised the American Airheads CEOs aren’t asking to carry the exact amount of fuel to reach a destination on the argument that they’re only flying that far. They won’t be happy unless a plane crashes and everyone dies because of scrimping on fuel.

    When the first plane does crash from lack of fuel and 200 people die, the American Airheads CEOs will be in full propaganda mode saying, “See? Nobody burned to death!!!! Isn’t that so much better?”


  42. AlabastaJoe says:

    This article reminds me of a short story I once read called “The Cold Equations.” You can find it online pretty easily, and the parallels are certainly interesting if not striking. If memory serves, when we discussed the story in class I said I didn’t like it mainly because I didn’t think this type of policy would ever be enacted in real life due to unforeseeable problems/circumstances. I guess I can admit when I’m wrong though.

  43. duncanblackthorne says:

    Absurd. What the pilots are protesting is a SAFETY issue. What happens if they get to the destination airport and due to unforseen circumstances they have to circle the field a few times and drop out of the sky due to lack of fuel? What happens if they get an unexpected headwind on the way there? Any experienced pilot will tell you that there are any number of things that can happen while in the air, and you have to be prepared for them as best you can. This is an irresponsible move by AA and they deserve to be blasted for it.

  44. Santas Little Helper says:

    One of the most useless things in an airplane is the fuel you left behind.

  45. NeverLetMeDown says:

    Life is a cost/benefit analysis. Period. Denying that is just denying reality.

    This has absolutely zero to do with safety, and even the pilots union tacitly admits that – it’s all about reliability – what’s the result in terms of the % of flights that end up diverting because of fuel levels.

    It’s also about environmental protection – taking too much fuel is wasting fuel (you need to burn fuel to transport fuel) and putting excess carbon into the atmosphere. If we want to play the inane hyperbole game, we could easily say that the pilot’s union want to accelerate global warming.

  46. wadexyz says:

    The amount of fuel a plane flies with should be determined by the FAA according to a standardized formula (taking all known factors into account).

    And even then, the pilot should be allowed to ask for more if the formula doesn’t cover a special situation.

  47. james says:

    To understand this, you have to be a million-mile club member.

    It is a corporate ploy to get priority on landings during those crowded periods when the airlines have too many planes racked and stacked in the sky awaiting their turn to land.

    The flight that is “low on fuel” will get landing priority over flights not low on fuel, so the airline that plays fast and loose with safety will have the better on-time arrival record for those impossible schedules when 20 flights are listed as departing at 5pm, or arriving at 7:30am.

    And yeah, one thunderstorm would be all it would take to divert a plane more than 15 mins of flying time.

    They are expecting all the other airlines to have lots of spare fuel so that they can get away with this little trick. If everyone did it, someone would lose the game of musical chairs, and we would all find out that jets have the aerodynamics of a brick when out of fuel. Turboprops can glide. Jets just tumble and make a hole in the ground.

    (Why doesn’t “preview” work on this site? One cannot edit – the entire text box goes blank when one tries to edit with Firefox 3.x on WinXP)

  48. DragonThermo says:

    I don’t see what the problem is. Just don’t sit on the taxiway for more than 15 minutes, don’t take more than one pass at a runway in foul weather, and don’t circle an airport waiting for permission to approach the runway. In other words, don’t dawdle. Close the hatch, get in the air, put it on (or in) the ground at your destination. If you should crash due to lack of fuel or rushed landing in poor weather, American Airlines will use the money they saved from other flights to pay off families of victims — which is what nowdays? $200? $250?

  49. Hodo says:

    I used to work in the aerospace sector (as an OEM and aftermarket parts/service supplier) and American was the WORST airline to work with. They were perpetually in pursuit of a price reduction — which makes a lot of sense for semiconductors and other manufactured goods, but tends not to play well with flight critical aircraft parts . . . I’ve seen a LOT of cost-cutting in my day, and AA were so focussed on this, that we eventually fired them as customers because we could no longer provide them what we deemed to be “airworthy” parts AND make much of a profit. As it turned out, when we fired them, they came back, so maybe they were just negotiating?