Alaska Airlines ranks No. 1 in fuel efficiency in a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation, while Allegiant Air is the least fuel-efficient and generates the most greenhouse gas emissions to provide a comparable level of service.
The study by the nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC, ranks the 15 mainline domestic carriers operating in the US in 2010 in terms of their overall in-service fuel efficiency. ICCT says it’s the first such analysis to quantify fuel performance for US airlines.
In addition to Alaska Airlines, Spirit, Hawaiian, Continental, Southwest, Frontier and JetBlue all score above the industry average for fuel efficiency, according to the study (see chart). No. 8 United Airlines scores 1, the industry average, while Virgin America, Sun Country, Delta, US Airways AirTran, American Airlines and Allegiant all score below the industry average.
A fuel efficiency score of 1 corresponds to average in-use fuel efficiency for the US market; values above or below 1 mean the airline performs better or worse, respectively, than the industry average. There’s a 26 percent difference between the most-efficient airline (Alaska) and the least-efficient (Allegiant) overall.
ICCT attributes about a third of the variation in fuel efficiency to aircraft technology, with the remainder due to factors like seating density, percent occupancy and ground operations practices.
The study also found that on city-city routes, the difference between the most- and least-efficient carriers ranged from 9 percent to 87 percent.
Route-specific performance tracks overall efficiency poorly, ICCT says. In a number of cases, the most efficient carriers between cities were below average overall.
The analysis is based on fuel-consumption data reported annually by the airlines to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics. ICCT says it employs a new methodology, developed by researchers at Federal Aviation Administration’s National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research at the University of California, Berkeley, to evaluate an airline’s fuel efficiency relative to both the mobility (straight-line passenger miles between origin and destination) and access (airports served and/or flight frequency) it provides.
Alaska Airlines has reduced its carbon footprint intensity by 30 percent (measured by revenue passenger miles) since 2004. Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air began flying multiple biofuel blend-powered passenger flights in 2011.