Asian airlines go lightweight to offset high fuel bills

August 26th, 2008 - 9:14 am ICT by IANS  

Hong Kong, Aug 26 (DPA) Lighter lunches, less alcohol and even streamlined cutlery are on the menu on Asian airlines as they shed excess weight in scores of little ways in a bid to cut down escalating fuel costs.With every gram carried on board equating to fuel, airlines are taking a closer look at what’s on board and making some inventive changes to cut their fuel costs - some which passengers may notice, others they won’t.

These include using lighter cutlery with in-flight meals, cutting down on the amount of wine, beer and water carried on board and even ditching heavyweight magazines in favour of more lightweight reading - literally.

Japan’s largest airliner Japan Airlines Corp (JAL) has shaved 2.5 kg per flight by introducing spoons and forks that are two gm lighter for its non-business class passengers. Its in-flight audio programmes have also been made a few pages thinner by squashing Japanese and English text side-by-side.

However, the most weight being lifted is in the cargo section where JAL has introduced glass fibre containers to cut some 26 km per load.

All Nippon Airways Co (ANA), meanwhile, have decided to stock its alcohol section with quarter bottles of wine instead of full bottles, but has assured passengers that this will not lead them to run out mid-route, insisting: “we had loaded too much before”.

The company has also changed seats on domestic flight planes - introducing a lighter carbon fibre seat frame that reportedly will save the airline 40,000 litres per aircraft each year. For passengers it has brought welcomed widened legroom, according to a spokesman, although the downside is reduced “cushion” in their seats.

Other airlines are taking more short-term measures. Singapore Airlines has already introduced lightweight carts and service-ware for meals on board its new A380, the world’s largest passenger jet - a move which will eventually be extended to other aircraft.

“We’re also eliminating heavy magazines and opting for lightweight reading instead,” said a spokesperson, although he declined to reveal the publications that would be scrapped.

Thai Aiways International (THAI) is seeking to reduce its weight load by skimping on fuel reserves, a policy that might cause some jitters among passengers although the airline insists the policy is in keeping with European safety standards.

The national carrier is aiming to halve its contingency fuel reserves as part of its weight-loss measures.

One THAI executive said such a move on the Bangkok-London route, for instance, would mean shedding about two tonnes in weight - amounting to a fuel reduction that would save $800.

In the Philippines, airlines have taken less innovative measures to cut weight. Flagship carrier Philippine Airlines has already limited free checked in baggage to 23 kg on its North American service, while domestic carrier Air Philippines has cut its daily service from Manila to three southern cities.

Others are looking to more expensive, long-term methods such as replacing their fuel guzzling aircraft with more fuel-efficient aircraft.

The same move is being employed by Hong Kong’s flagship airline Cathay Pacific, which sees fuel-efficient aircraft and route management as the key to saving fuel.

But the prize for the most “innovative” weight watching has to go to India’s Kingfisher, which has admitted saving pennies on their fuel bill by reducing the amount of washroom water carried on board. They are encouraging passengers not to “spend a penny” (visit the washroom).

“Our planes are flying with half or less than half-filled water tank as it lightens the load and reduces fuel consumption. And we are not the only airline doing this,” a Kingfisher airline senior official told the Daily Telegraph.

With experts claiming that every flush at 30,000 feet saves enough fuel to power a car for 10 km, this move is not as silly as you would first think. As the well-worn adage goes: “Every little bit helps.”

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