(CBS)—Skyrocketing fuel costs are prompting airlines to make small changes to lighten planes, but the changes aren’t doing much to enhance passengers’ comfort.
Experts say every ounce counts, even on a typical Boeing 787 that weighs more than 250,000 pounds.
“Anytime we can reduce even an ounce of weight, that means we burn less fuel to fly to that destination,” said Aaron Stash, environmental and strategy sustainability manager at United Airlines.
“Even an Even an ounce (counts), because if you are multiplying that across the thousands of seats and the thousands of flights we have, that ounce adds up and multiples very quickly.”
At Chicago-based United Airlines, the 750-plane fleet is getting small makeovers to help reduce the weight of its aircraft.
Some of those changes include reducing the square-footage of restrooms and switching out heavier items storied in the galley with lighter, more eco-friendly goods.
On newer planes, United is using lighter seats, cargo containers and beverage carts.
New beverage carts weigh about half as much as the 50-pound old carts, and the new cargo containers are 80 pounds lighter.
Airline officials estimate the new cargo boxes could save United up to 2 million gallons of fuel per year. That’s in addition to another 1.4 million gallons of fuel the airline says it’s saved from ending duty-free sales—for a total savings of $7 million, United says.
“We’ve improved our efficiency by 30 percent,” Stash said.
At Southwest Airlines, CBS Houston’s Kris Van Cleave reports the airline is rolling out new slim-line seats in its new fleet of 737’s.
The discount airline told CBS it has saved 148,000 gallons of fuel by changing the way galleys are stocked and by switching out glass for cans.
The paper manuals once provided to pilots are also being swapped for tablets. The airline says that small change alone is lightening flights by about 80 pounds.
Those changes equate to a savings of nearly 576,000 gallons of fuel per year for a savings about $2 million, the airline says.
“Doing all of this doesn’t make the planes any faster, and it certainly doesn’t make them more comfortable,” said CBS travel editor Peter Greenberg. “In fact, it’s just about fuel efficiency and fuel savings—and that just gets back to the airline—there’s no real passenger benefit.”
Fuel accounts for 99 percent of an airline’s carbon footprint.