Thursday, 16 August 2012

How expensive is it to fuel a commercial jet?

The cost of fuelling a car in the UK has risen substantially over the past number of years, as recently as 2002 a litre of petrol was just 69.9p. Fuel has become so expensive that I've altered my driving style quite a bit. I was able to work out that by using a little less right foot I could improve my average mpg by 15 thus saving myself roughly 5.7p per mile. If I was to drive a pretty average 14,000 miles a year that extra 15 mpg would save me just short of £800, the equivalent of 132 hours working on minimum wage. I also tried to work out whether a slightly longer commute that avoided hills would be more efficient than the shorter hillier route although I don't really want to discuss that in this post. What I would like to discuss is how much it costs to fuel a commercial jet, I think you may be quite surprised.

Aviation fuel as of Monday August 13th was priced at $3.13 per US gallon, compared to a gallon of petrol it's not very expensive. It's also usually of a higher quality than what you'd use in your car and often contains additives to help prevent icing or explosions. Now that we know the price it's pretty simple to work out how much it's going to cost to fill the fuel tanks of a commercial jet, I'll give examples for a few different kinds of aircraft starting with the medium range A320.

If you've ever flown with Easyjet or Aer Lingus chances are you've been on an A320. It's a good aircraft for short to medium range flights and can be just as efficient on a 30 minute flight as a 4 hour flight. However just because it's efficient doesn't mean it's cheap. The standard A320 has a maximum fuel capacity of 6,400 gallons meaning you'll need $20,000 to fill it.

The Boeing 777-200LR hold the record for the longest non-stop flight by a commercial airliner. On the 9th of November 2005 it flew eastward from Hong-Kong to London, a distance of 13,423 miles. It has reduced cargo space thanks to three auxiliary fuel tanks in the cargo hold and has the ability to connect almost any two airports in the world. Those auxiliary tanks help achieve a maximum fuel capacity of 47,890 gallons costing roughly $150,000 to fill.

Now onto the big one, the Airbus A380. The A380 holds the record for the world's biggest passenger jet, it's so large that a number of airports have had to alter their existing infrastructure to accommodate it. It takes 2.75km of runway to reach a safe take-off speed, is likely almost twice the height of your house and can accommodate 853 passengers in a single class configuration. Unsurprisingly as the world's biggest jet it also has one of the biggest fuel capacities. The A380 can hold a maximum of 84,600 gallons giving the owner a $265,000 bill every time the aircraft needs to re-fuel. 

$265,000 for one tank, fuelling my car seems pretty cheap now.     

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