A five passenger flight across the pond


Imagine having a 777 airplane for just yourself and four others on a flight from the USA to London. Not a bad way to fly, right? American Airlines operated a flight in early February with only five passengers, and now they’re being forced to defend themselves from attacks by environmental groups. The basic argument is that by flying the plane with only five people American did a disservice to the environment. Of course, that complaint ignores the fact that the plane flew a full load of cargo, which is a huge part of paying for the fuel (and the weight load that requires the fuel). It also ignores that there were 250+ people sitting in London waiting for the plane that was 14 hours late to get there and bring them back to the USA.

Most charter flights involve flying empty at least one way or the other. And the number of flights that operate on subsidy from the federal government while flying with a load factor of less than 10% is higher than most want to admit. I’m a fan of pushing any industry to be more responsible in terms of their environmental impact, but this seems like a pretty bad specific example to use if you want to win a logical argument.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .
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