Why is flying so cheap? And is it as bad as we thought it was?

frank sinatra
via Come Fly with Me

Sploid titles a post What the Heck Makes Flying So Expensive? I looked at it thought really? What the heck makes flying so cheap? I am going to New York City next month for the NHPHN Passive House conference and wanted to take the train, but it is $167 one way, takes 14 hours and requires an extra night in a hotel. Flying in a Q400 turboprop takes 90 minutes and costs $115; going by jet costs $138. Who said flying was expensive?

In fact, as this great video shows at the end, flying is cheaper than ever, half of what it cost thirty years ago, when they were already flying jumbo jets.

cost per mile© The Atlantic

There are all kinds of reasons; the planes are more efficient, they pack more people in, they provide fewer services and they treat everything from food to baggage handling as an extra cost now. In fact, according to Sploid,

Even though giant passenger jets do guzzle down fuel at a ridiculous 0.67 miles per gallon—seriously, they need 1.5 gallons of jet fuel for every mile traveled—there are so many people on an airplane that the fuel cost gets split down to a much more reasonable price: a per-person fuel efficiency of 104.7 miles per gallon. That’s good! So why is flying so expensive? It’s everything else.

By that they mean the taxes, security, airport fees, the cost of the planes and the crews on them. It is a fascinating video, that does make the point at the end that flying is pretty much cheaper than it has ever been. And if I thought I was reducing my carbon footprint by taking the train, I am probably wrong; this graph shows the comparative fuel economies, but assumes the train is full; the last time I was on the run to New York it was not even close.

Of course the graph doesn't show the true picture; as Mike has noted earlier, people travel much longer distances by plane, and there is the "radiative forcing ratio" where the warming effect from aircraft emissions are more dire than carbon dioxide emissions at grade. But still, it surprises. And for my trip to New York City, flying turboprop (which uses 64% of the fuel of a jet) turns out to be the greenest way that I can go.

We used to quote George Monbiot a lot, when he said Flying is dying. But until we are all driving Teslas or getting sucked through Hyperloops, it may well be the best way to go.

Tags: Air Travel | Carbon Emissions | Carbon Footprint | Fuel Efficiency

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