Topics / Airline fuel efficiency

In 2011 the ICCT began studying airline operations to provide consumers, researchers, and policymakers with better information about airline efficiency and CO2 emissions. Our initial focus has been on the U.S. domestic market, which currently accounts for approximately one-quarter of global aviation CO2 emissions. Aviation fuel use in the U.S., moreover, is projected to grow almost 2% annually for the next 20 years. Working with researchers at the FAA’s National Center of Excellence for Operations (NEXTOR) at UC Berkeley, we developed a novel statistical approach allowing an apples-to-apples comparison of fuel efficiency independent of airline size, operating structure, and business model.

Fuel accounts for about a third of an airline’s operating costs, creating an incentive for airlines to manage their fuel consumption through technological and operational improvements. Nonetheless, our annual fuel efficiency rankings have identified a large (~26%) and stable fuel efficiency gap among U.S. domestic airlines, falling gains from fuel efficiency for U.S. airlines over time, and little correlation between the profitability an airline and its overall fuel efficiency. The research highlights the importance of effective policies to help constrain aviation emissions growth domestically and internationally.

Most Recent

Compares the fuel efficiency of 20 airlines operating nonstop flights between the mainland United States and East Asia and Oceania and extends the previous transatlantic fuel efficiency methodology to the transpacific market.

A sharp increase in revenue passenger miles drove both profits and fuel consumption on domestic operations up between 2014 and 2016 for U.S. airlines. Alaska Airlines again ranked first in overall fuel-efficiency, while the gap between it and the least fuel-efficient carrier, Virgin America in 2016, widened slightly to 26%.

Evaluates the trajectory of GHG emissions from international aviation in the U.S. and Canada as well as the possible GHG reductions that could be made from deployment of alternative jet fuels (AJFs) within the framework of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).


Updates a benchmarking study of airlines' fuel efficiency in 2010. Overall, the fuel efficiency of U.S. airlines on domestic operations improved 2.3% from 2010 to 2012, not enough to meet U.S. greenhouse gas reduction goals, and the gap between best and worst did not change.

Publication: White paper

Quantifies the gaps in overall in-service fuel-efficiency between U.S. domestic passenger airlines, using publicly available data and accounting for differences in business operations across airlines.

Publication: Report

Employs ratio-based, deterministic, and stochastic frontier approaches to assess the fuel efficiency of fifteen large jet operators in the United States.

Publication: Consultant report
One of the more interesting phrases we’ve come across in aviation is selling “planes by the pound,” which is one way to think of Boeing’s and Airbus’s differing approaches for selling widebody aircraft for high capacity, short-distance r
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