U.S Airlines: Fuel Consumption in Decline

The table below presents data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA). The figures represent annual fuel consumption (for domestic flights, international flights, and TOTAL), average fuel price per gallon, and percent change in total consumption from the previous year. The data source is Bureau of Transportation Statistics F41 Schedule P12A as of 9/17/2013, representing all U.S Scheduled Air Carriers. link to Data Source

The data suggest the following:

  1. Domestic fuel consumption decreased 25%, from 13.9 Billion gallons in 2000 to 10.4 Billion gallons in 2012.
  2. International fuel consumption increased 9.5%, from 5.1 Billion gallons in 2000 to 5.6 Billion gallons in 2012.
  3. TOTAL fuel consumption decreased 15.9%, from 19.0 Billion gallons in 2000 to 16.0 Billion gallons in 2012.
  4. The average price of fuel increased 283%, from 78-cents per gallon in 2000 to $2.99 per gallon in 2012.
  5. Southwest Airlines is the one legacy airline that bucked the trend. A separate analysis of only Southwest Airlines shows fuel consumption increased 74%, from 1.0 Billion gallons in 2000 to 1.8 Billion gallons in 2012.
  6. In the same timeframe…
    …Continental Airlines’ fuel consumption decreased 33%,
    …Delta Airlines’ fuel consumption decreased 28%,
    …US Airways’ fuel consumption decreased 27%,
    …and United’s fuel consumption decreased 17%.
    …Northwest Airlines’ fuel consumption decreased 44% by 2009, when data reporting ended due to the merger into Delta Airlines.
  7. The data also reflect the major decline in aviation activity coincident with both the 9/11/2001 incident and the fiscal meltdown at the end of 2008. More importantly, though, the data are consistent with other data (e.g., declines in ATC operations) showing that the U.S. domestic airline industry has been steadily contracting for at least the past twelve years.
On the plus side, these fuel consumption decreases
partially reflect the upgrading by U.S. domestic airlines
to more fuel efficient aircraft.
Domestic (million gallons)
average price
International (million gallons)
TOTAL (million gallons)
% annual change
2000
13,904
$0.78
5,123
19,026
2001
13,112
$0.76
4,956
18,068
-5.0%
2002
12,287
$0.70
4,572
16,859
-6.7%
2003
12,417
$0.83
4,451
16,868
0.1%
2004
13,380
$1.13
4,764.70
18,145
7.8%
2005
13,284
$1.63
5,040
18,324
1.0%
2006
13,019
$1.93
5,220
18,240
-0.5%
2007
12,999
$2.07
5,428
18,427
1.0%
2008
12,469
$2.98
5,509
17,978
-2.4%
2009
11,147
$1.90
5,087
16,234
-9.7%
2010
11,056
$2.24
5,246
16,303
0.4%
2011
10,864
$2.89
5,521
16,385
0.5%
2012
10,395
$2.99
5,608
16,004*
-2.3%

*…given that each gallon of jet fuel combusts to yield 22.17 pounds of atmospheric CO2, the U.S. Commercial Aviation sector belched 355 billion pounds of this greenhouse gas into our atmosphere in 2012. This equates to 1,100 pounds per year per U.S. citizen. Since gasoline produces 20 pounds of CO2 per gallon combusted, the aviation contribution is as if each citizen used 55 gallons of gasoline for driving.

CO2 molecule with one carbon atom (atomic weight 12) and two oxygen atoms (atomic weight of 16 each)