An airplane is an airplane, and all airlines are roughly equal in spewing carbon-dioxide into the stratosphere, right? Wrong: The most fuel efficient airlines can be 25% more fuel efficient than their most inefficient peers, as this superb infographic by GOOD shows:
[Click for full-size version]
What’s really interesting about the chart is that it shows that not all airlines are making an equal effort at fuel efficiency–for example, AirTran and Air Alaska appear to have increased their efficiency by 53% and 33% since 2000.
There should be a couple provisos added to the data though: Long-haul flights tend to be more fuel efficient, which partly explains why Air Alaska, whose flights tend to be really long, is at the top of the list. But most important is the age of the aircraft themselves: Newer aircraft burn less fuel, owing in large part to advances in design and technology. And finally, it’s hard for the big legacy carriers to improve much, owing to their huge, pre-existing fleets. But much can be done–everything from flying slower to redesigning the skies themselves.
Still, it’s a complicated issue: Theoretically, if you choose to fly on a greener airline, that makes the other airlines even less green, because their capacity would fall. Then again, if airlines start seeing that fuel efficiency is a useful marketing tool, you can bet they’ll act on that knowledge.