11 Ways Airlines Are Cramming People Onto Planes And Saving Money

fat couple at airport obese

Profit margins in the airline industry are thin, and one of the key culprits is the cost of jet fuel.

Filling aircraft tanks cost the global airline industry $207 billion in 2012 — 33 per cent of its operating costs, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Airlines can’t control the price of fuel, but they can work to reduce how much much they use.

There are two basic approaches: Reduce the number of flights by packing each plane to the gills, and make each flight more efficient by cutting weight wherever possible.

Here are eleven ways to do just that. Some are already in place, others are on the way, and the rest are likely to appear in the next few years — no matter how uncomfortable they make passengers.

Samoa Air is charging fat passengers extra.

The new carrier may not save money on fuel, but it will recoup what it pays.

Ticket prices for the regional airline are based on passenger weight. In an area with a severe obesity problem, the weight limit on its small planes can easily be reached.

Major airlines may consider charging a 'fat tax' -- an extra fee for overweight passengers who require extra fuel to ferry around the world -- but will likely never put the policy into practice.

Instead, they'll find other ways to save weight.

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is designed to be a fuel-saving game changer.

The passenger jet, which promises fuel savings through new composite materials and a powerful lithium-ion battery, has been out of service since the FAA issued an emergency airworthiness directive on January 16, following two incidents in which that battery failed.

The 787 may return to the skies at the end of May, but it's an example of how major overhauls and clean-sheet design are difficult to pull off.

Boeing is shrinking the lavatories on its 737 jets.

The standard economy class lavatory is three by three feet. Boeing is shrinking that in its 737 planes, thanks to a new design from B/E Aerospace.

Delta will be among the first to fly planes with the smaller facilities. The airline says passengers won't notice the difference, because the extra space has been removed from behind the sink, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Passengers are more likely to notice the four extra seats the smaller bathrooms make room for.

United will pack people in with thinner seats.

United Airlines announced in August it will switch to lighter and thinner seats that will provide room for another row of passengers.

United says the seat, the BL3250 from Recaro, will increase the space for a passenger's knees, but the fact remains that having more people on a plane makes it less comfortable.

Airbus is installing special big seats for fat people.

The planemaker is offering airlines the chance to install extra-wide seats, measuring 20 inches across instead of the standard 18 inches. They will likely be installed only as aisle seats.

The window and middle seats will each lose an inch of width to generate the extra space.

The real winners will be airlines, who will be able to charge extra for the roomier spots.

Pilots and flight attendants are swapping paper manuals for electronic ones.

American Airlines bought 17,000 Galaxy Note tablets from Samsung last month, to be used by flight attendants to access flight information and customer service information.

AA pilots have been using iPads for a while now. Moving navigational charts and other information onto the tablets allowed the airline to remove 35 pounds of paper in each plane.

A smaller carrier is replacing traditional entertainment systems with iPads.

In 2012, low-cost airline Scoot announced it would replace heavy built-in entertainment systems with iPads.

That cuts the plane's weight by seven per cent, a significant jump, and passengers get top of the line products pre-loaded with movies, games, and music, according to The Verge.

Food and beverage trolleys are becoming lighter.

Norduyn Inc. says its Quantam trolleys are the lightest on the market, thanks to advanced composite materials.

They weigh less than 22 pounds, and use far less dry ice than models currently in use.

So are aeroplane trash compactors.

AERTEC has designed a new vacuum trash compactor, which the engineering firm says will be more comfortable for flight attendants to operate.

It's also 45 per cent lighter than other models in use today.

Sliding seats will get travellers off planes faster.

Sliding seats can reduce turnaround time, allowing planes to make more flights and save fuel while on the ground.

Former US Navy test pilot Hank Scott and aerospace engineer Kevin Van Liere created a sliding seat that will make aisles wider when it's time to deplane. The middle seat is set lower, so the aisle seat can slide over it.

There are downsides, however: The seats don't have much padding, and aren't meant for long-haul flights, according to USA Today.

Passengers may have ads staring them in the face.

At the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg this week, Smart Tray International featured the X1, a tray table with an 'ad revenue program placard.'

In an industry where every penny counts, the chance to generate cash from ad space may be hard to pass up, even if it annoys passengers.

Now see the future of flying in luxury.

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