Frontier Is The Most Fuel Efficient Airline In The United States

Frontier Airlines was revealed as the most fuel efficient airline in the US yesterday. A new report released by the International Council on Clean Transportation ranks America’s airlines by fuel efficiency for the years 2017-18.

A Frontier Airlines Airbus A319
Frontier’s aircraft are known for their animal liveries. Photo: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr

The ICCT’s US airline fuel efficiency rankings, released yesterday, puts Frontier Airlines top of the pack for 2017-18. According to the report, Frontier Airlines is significantly more fuel efficient than the joint second place contenders, Spirit and Southwest Airlines.

Of the 12 US airlines on the list, four of them fall below the industry fuel efficiency average. By comparison, JetBlue burned 26% more fuel per flight than Frontier Airlines and placed last out of all US carriers.

In a press statement, Frontier Airlines’ President and CEO, Barry Biffle, said,

“Our business has undergone an amazing transformation to reach this level of efficiency and we’re committed to continuing our efforts to be a more sustainable and affordable option for travelers,”

Frontier’s fuel efficiency

The secret to Frontier’s fuel efficiency lies in its fleet, specifically the Airbus A320neo. Even though Frontier Airlines is much smaller than some of the major US airlines, it operates a total of 43 A320neos, the most of any airline in the US.

The Airbus A320neo is equipped with the ‘new engine option’, which has 500 miles additional range over the ‘current engine option’ counterparts.

A Frontier Airlines Airbus A321
Frontier has a fuel efficient fleet. Photo: Griz13 via Wikimedia Commons

Alongside the widespread use of the Airbus A320neo, the ICCT report mentions Frontier’s operational practices as another major contributing factor to its overall fuel efficiency.

These operational practices include a dense seating configuration on all Frontier aircraft, which allows the airline to achieve high passenger load factors. It also employs weight-saving tactics and an alternative baggage process, both of which further add to fuel efficiency.

Where other airlines miss out

Despite an ever-growing awareness of global warming and the undoubted role greenhouse gases play in the process, the ICCT report shows that progress in some areas has been slow.

In 2018, US domestic airlines burnt 17% more fuel than they did back in 2009. This is mainly due to the fact that there was a large decrease in the amount of fuel burnt during and after the global financial crisis. Nevertheless, 2018’s fuel use was still higher than it was in 2005.

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737
Alaska Airlines has moved away from turbofan aircraft. Photo: Colin Brown Photography via Flickr

Although Alaska Airlines usually exceeds Frontier Airlines in terms of fuel efficiency on domestic flights, 2018 was an exception. Alaska Airlines suffered a significant drop in its overall fuel efficiency as a result of its merger with the less efficient Virgin America. Alaska Airlines also suffered a drop in overall fuel efficiency due to its switch away from efficient turboprop aircraft, towards regional jets.

In joint second place, Southwest Airlines is making good progress in its overall fuel efficiency. It is replacing the older Boeing 737-300s in its fleet with Boeing 737 NG and the ill-fated Boeing 737 MAX.

As this fleet refresh continues, Southwest will likely see its average fuel efficiency improve further. Whether this is enough to overtake Frontier, with its special emphasis on green flying, is another matter.