Ski Resort Budgeting: The £8 Coffee

Ski season is almost here. Get saving…

After buying your flights, accommodation and lift pass, don’t forget you’ll be eating and drinking a lot.

How much will all those calories cost you?

I’m glad you asked…

Methodology

Every year the Post Office (UK) compiles their Ski Resort Report. For this post I used the latest 2018 edition.

Lunch prices are based on two courses (main course and dessert) for a family of four, excluding drinks.

Individual drink items are calculated on a per person basis.

Results

The morning coffee

Coffee per person by ski resort (2018)

Download chart.

La Thuile in Italy offers the cheapest daily coffee at just £0.90 — that’s over two thirds cheaper than the price of a coffee from a generic London coffee shop.

Overall the mean price for a large coffee on the slope is £2.91.

Though you’ve probably already gasped at the far right of the chart. Yes, I double checked. A large coffee in the Norwegian resort of Trysil does cost an astounding £8.86 (thanks, unfriendly exchange rates!). Over a 6 day holiday that equals a spend of £53.04 on a daily coffee.

An alternative caffeine hit

Coke per person by ski resort (2018)

Download chart.

Want something sweeter. A Coke could be the slightly cheaper option. The mean price of a small Coke across all resorts is £2.88.

The cheapest small Coke can be found in the Bulgarian resort of Bansko (£0.77), and the most expensive… Yes, it’s Trysil again, where a a Coke costs the same as a coffee (£8.86),

Lunchtime

Lunch per person by ski resort (2018)

Download chart.

Lunch in a Trysil restaurant is expensive, as expected, at £32.40 per person (almost £130 for a family of 4). Interestingly though, Trysil is not significantly more expensive than other resorts for lunch, as it is with drinks.

In most major European resorts lunch will set you back around £27 per person.

The average restaurant lunch (two courses) across all resorts costs £20.11.

Wine or beer?

Drink price by ski resort (2018)

Download chart.

No surprises here, Bansko comes out cheapest where a 25cl beer will cost you £1.35.

A glass of wine (50cl) on the other hand ranges from £1.88 (Bansko) to almost £18 (Trysil).

In almost all European resorts, beer is cheaper than wine. In North American resorts its the opposite.

On average, an alcoholic drink will cost you £4.80, with the major European resorts being the most expensive. Here you’re looking at spending between £3.50 and £4.00 on a beer, and £6 to £9 for a glass of wine.

Improvements

The Post Office report provides general guidance of prices, but it is clear the data collection (or at least transparency as to how it was collected) could be improved to provide a more in depth analysis.

tl;dr

Take a pack lunch. The average cost of lunch at European and American ski resorts is £20.11.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The £520 Million ATOL Refund Bill. Can the UK CAA Cover It?

In the UK, travel agents must pay £2.50 into the ATOL scheme for each person they book on a package holiday.

If a travel business with an ATOL ceases trading, the ATOL scheme protects consumers who had booked holidays with the firm. It will support consumers currently abroad and provide financial reimbursement for the cost of replacing parts of an ATOL protected package.

ATOL Website

If you’re in the UK, you will be well aware of the ATOL scheme (operated by the UK CAA) by now after the collapse of Thomas Cook.

The mammoth repatriation effort, dubbed Operation Matterhorn (aka the largest in peacetime history), is to bring an estimated 150,000 people back to the UK.

Government figures show that the cost of reimbursing holidaymakers who lost future bookings stands at £420 million.

This is in addition to an expected £100 million bill to return Thomas Cook passengers to Britain and tens of millions owed to hotels overseas.

Thomas Cook Group Website

Though after years as one of the leading travel agents in Europe, as the Thomas Cook Group sites still boasts (parent company of Thomas Cook UK), surely the passenger ATOL contributions must cover the mounting bills?

Methodology

Using direct and indirect data sources, I was able to obtain numbers to make some “informed estimations”.

I am using figures from Thomas Cook Airlines, as I was unable to find exact package holiday passenger numbers. This is an important distinction, as Thomas Cook Airlines also carry passengers not covered under ATOL protection (e.g. those who booked flights only). As a result, many of the figures quoted will be overestimates.

Similarly, I also use figures from the Office of National Statistics that report total UK holidays by year to work out potential ATOL contributions.

ATOL contributions in this post are assumed to be fixed at £2.50 per passenger.

Results

Thomas Cook ATOL Contributions by Year

Thomas Cook Airlines Passenger Volume and Estimated ATOL contributions (2009 - 2018)

Download chart.

Year Pax (TC airlines) ATOL contribution GBP
2009 8,202,534 20,506,335
2010 8,120,815 20,302,038
2011 7,969,569 19,923,923
2012 6,783,661 16,959,153
2013 6,043,480 15,108,700
2014 6,043,480 15,108,700
2015 6,395,623 15,989,058
2016 6,623,546 16,558,865
2017 7,319,546 18,298,865
2018 8,090,208 20,225,520

Full table.

Since 2013 Thomas Cook Airlines has been carrying an increasing number of passengers. Over 2 million more in 2018 than in 2013 (25% increase).

Assuming all these passengers were covered under ATOL protection (see methodology), Thomas Cook paid over £20.2 million to the scheme in 2018. Using the same logic, over the period between 2009 and 2018 Thomas Cook airlines paid £179 million into the scheme.

Let’s assume now that only 50% of Thomas Cook airline passengers paid in to the scheme. In 2018 they would have contributed just over £10 million, and since 2009, about £90 million.

This number is still way short of the estimated £520 million final bill, as quoted above.

Potential Total Travel Agents ATOL Contributions by Year

UK Holiday Passengers and Potential ATOL contributions GBP (1998 - 2018)

Download chart.

Year UK Holiday Passengers ATOL Potential ATOL contributions GBP @100% paid UK Holiday Passengers ATOL GBP @50% paid
1998 32,306,000 80,765,000 40,382,500
1999 35,023,000 87,557,500 43,778,750
2000 36,685,000 91,712,500 45,856,250
2001 38,670,000 96,675,000 48,337,500
2002 39,902,000 99,755,000 49,877,500
2003 41,197,000 102,992,500 51,496,250
2004 42,912,000 107,280,000 53,640,000
2005 44,175,000 110,437,500 55,218,750
2006 45,287,000 113,217,500 56,608,750
2007 45,437,000 113,592,500 56,796,250
2008 45,531,000 113,827,500 56,913,750
2009 38,492,000 96,230,000 48,115,000
2010 36,422,000 91,055,000 45,527,500
2011 36,819,000 92,047,500 46,023,750
2012 36,173,000 90,432,500 45,216,250
2013 37,149,000 92,872,500 46,436,250
2014 38,519,000 96,297,500 48,148,750
2015 42,150,000 105,375,000 52,687,500
2016 45,020,000 112,550,000 56,275,000
2017 46,636,000 116,590,000 58,295,000
2018 47,042,000 117,605,000 58,802,500

Full table.

Assuming all UK holiday makers contributed towards ATOL, the scheme would have raised £117.6 million in 2018 (47 million pax). If so, since 1998 the scheme has raised £2.13 billion (from 851.5 million passengers). ATOL stated in 1973.

Let’s assume only 50% of holiday makers were required to pay into the scheme, it would still have generated a pot of over £1 billion (ignoring other times passengers have been compensated by ATOL, see below).

We have enough to cover the £520 million now…

Repaying Thomas Cook Passengers

Thomas Cook Impact on ATOL Contributions Pot 1998-2018

Download chart.

Assuming the 50% of holiday makers since 1998 were required to pay into the scheme (£1 billion), the £520 million Thomas Cook bill would require 48.9% of the schemes contributions to refund passengers.

Thomas Cook UK are the largest agency or airline to go into liquidation, by quite some margin.

Though a number of other airlines — FlyBMI, Cobalt, Monarch, etc — are likely to have impacted passengers under ATOL protection. ATOL refunds for the collapse of Monarch added up to £21 million.

Of course, many smaller agencies will have ceased trading, requiring ATOL refunds for passengers too.

The question is, has ATOL paid out more than £520 million since 1998. I’m not so sure…

Improvements

As indicated in the methodology section (and lack of a definitive answer to the question), there are lots of estimations in this post.

To improve the accuracy of the figures estimated, I would need ATOL contribution figures by agency and all payouts over the period the organisation has been operating.

tl;dr

It is very likely that the final Thomas Cook will significantly impact the balance sheet of the ATOL protection scheme. It could easily exceed over 50% of all ATOL contributions for the last 20 years.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

$1.25 billion worth of baggage was potentially lost or stolen in 2018

Recently I disembarked a long flight to find my luggage already waiting on the carousel for me. In fact, it was as if the bags delivery had been perfectly timed as it allowed me to stroll up to the carousel and collect it.

This was as an odd experience. Why? Because I’m usually waiting until the end to collect my bag.

Many people theorise as to the order bags are delivered. It’s clear priority baggage will be first. But then what? The bags that went on the plane last, and thus offloaded first? Or the other way around?

In many cases I only have myself to blame as I often travel with my bike, which usually comes out last as oversized baggage.

Waiting gives me time to people watch in the baggage haul. Fortunately, at the time of writing, an airline has never lost my bag, but I’ve seen plenty of others told their bag has gone missing.

When will my luck run out?

Methodology

For the last 5 years Sita, an airline consultancy, have produced analysis titled, The Baggage Report, that reports on airline baggage trends.

View all the reports here.

Using these 5 reports I compiled the key stats regarding mishandled bags for analysis. Mishandled bags includes those lost or stolen, those that have been damaged or had items stolen, or those that have been delayed on arrival.

Data exists for years 2003, 2007, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and covers major global airlines.

Results

Reasons for mishandled baggage (2018)

Reason for lost baggage chart (2018)

Download chart.

77% of mishandled bags are delayed, 18% damaged or pilfered, with 5% completely lost or stolen.

Total passengers vs. mishandled bags

Total passengers vs. Mishandled bags per 1k pax

Download chart.

Passenger numbers continue to increase year-on-year. In 2018 4.36 billion passengers were carried, compared to 1.89 billion in 2003.

Though airlines and airports are handling the increase well. There is an inverse correlation between passenger and mishandled bags; as passengers have increased, mishandled bags have generally decreased.

2018 saw a slight increase in mishandled bags (5.69 per 1000 pax), up from 2017 (5.57 per 1000 pax). Though this is a massive improvement on 2003 (13.2 per 1000 pax) and 2007 (18.8 per 1000 pax!), despite the increased passenger traffic in the last few years.

Total mishandled bags each year

Total Bags Mishandled each year

Download chart.

Almost 25 million bags were mishandled in 2018. We know of this 25 million, 5% were lost or stolen — that’s 1.25 million bags that passengers will never see again.

Assuming each bag has $500 worth of items in, which I would argue is an underestimate including the bag, that’s $625 million worth of lost baggage insurance companies might have to cover in the worst case.

Expanding this further, if each bag and its contents averages $1000 in value (what many basic travel insurance policies will cover) that adds up to $1.25 billion worth of lost and stolen baggage in 2018 globally!

77% or 19.25 million bags were delayed in 2018 meaning the airlines then have to deliver them back to passengers. Assuming it costs $10 to deliver each bag back to a traveller on average (this is a complete guess), that’s another $192.5 million airlines have to budget for (in their razor thin margins).

Chances you’ll lose a bag

Download chart.

Overall, you had a 0.57% chance of your bag being mishandled in 2018 — that’s 1 bag mishandled for every 175 passengers. Following current trends, this risk is likely to be slightly reduced in 2019.

You had a very low chance of your bag being completely lost or stolen (0.03% or 1 in 3333 passengers). It’s much more likely your bag was delayed (0.44% or 1 in 227 passengers).

tl;dr

You had a 0.57% chance of your bag being mishandled in 2018 — that’s 1 bag mishandled for every 175 passengers.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Airline meals in the US are getting more fattening

Some adore them. Others turn their nose up.

Meals, or should I say, meals served in economy on board a flight often receive bad press. Some of those served in first, rival some of the best restaurants I’ve visited.

Personally I like the fairly new trend of buying meals in the terminal and taking them on-board. Many airlines are starting to charge passengers for food on long-haul routes anyway.

My reason being is that I get more choice, and can often select something slightly healthier if I want to.

Which got me thinking? How nutritious are meals on-board a flight?

Methodology

In 2018 Diet Detective wrote to various US airlines offering transcontinental routes to provide nutritional information on inflight meals and snacks.

I used a mean average of these numbers to come up with the analysis used in this post.

Results

Meal options

Average Meal kCal Airline

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The average meal onboard these airlines has 492 calories. For 2 meals on a long-haul flight, that’s just under 1000 calories. Well below the 2000 calories recommended for an “average” person.

Air Canada meals offer the lowest calorie content at 377 per meal, compared to Delta where onboard meals average 559 calories.

Snack options

Average Snack kCal airline

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Snacks have a much larger variance. JetBlue snacks average 142 calories. On Hawiian, snacks average 460 calories — more than the average meal on Air Canada flights.

Yearly change

Average kCal per airline menu choice

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Looking at an average across all menu choices, the average number of calories was 360 in 2012; in 2013 it was 388; in 2014 it was 397; in 2015 it was 400; in 2016 it was 392, in 2017 it was 405 calories, a 13 calorie increase over 2016.

In all but one year, 2016, calorie content for airline food has slowly increased.

Improvements

The Diet Detective report did not cover all US airlines, nor did it cover any international airlines. It would be interesting to compare US versus international airlines for meal offerings given some international airlines offer a wide variety of meal choices to travellers (namely those in the Middle East).

tl;dr

The average airline menu item has increased in calorie content from 360 in 2012 to 405 in 2018 — an increase of 45 calories.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

 

The Fountain that Earns Over 28 Times the US Minimum Wage

Toss a coin into a fountain and make a wish. There’s something particularly romantic about doing so at the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

The legend goes; throwing one coin means a return to Rome, a second coin leads to a new romance, and a third coin leads to marriage.

So how many people are getting married?

The totals

A lot of visitors to Rome are clearly buying into the story, with an Italian charity, Caritas, a Catholic non-profit that receives all coins, confirming that nearly $1.5 million dollars in change was thrown into the fountain during 2016.

Trevi Fountain earnings USD EUR (0.89 USD)
Amount per year $1,500,000.00 €1,335,000.00
Amount per month $125,000.00 €111,250.00
Amount per day $4,109.59 €3,657.53
Amount per hour $68.49 €60.96
Amount per min $1.14 €1.02

Full table

The Trevi Fountain earns $68.49 per hour (over a 24 hour period). Assuming a standard 8 hour work day (vs. 24 hours) that’s $204.48 per hour, 28 times higher than the minimum wage in the US of $7.25 per hour. Per day the fountain receives just over $4,109 in coins.

Now let’s assume all the coins thrown into the fountain are Euros, at an exchange rate of 0.89 EUR to 1 USD (correct May 15th 2019) thats €60.96 per hour, or €3,657.53 per day.

The coins

The euro coin series comprises eight different denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent, €1 and €2.

That means, the minimum number of coins thrown into the fountain per day is 1832 (x1828 2 Euro coins, x1 1 Euro coin, x1 50 cent coin, x1 2 cent coin, and x1 1 cent coin).

Though I very much doubt the majority of people are throwing in 2 Euro coins. I would not be surprised if the average denomination was less than 10 cents. Assuming all the coins were 10 cents, that’s x36,575 10 cent coins (plus x1 2 cent coin, and x1 1 cent coin).

The weight

Continuing this trail of thought, with each 10 cent coin weighing in at 4.1 grams, the daily weight of coins is just under 150kg. Per year that’s 54735kg or nearly 55 tonnes — about half the weight of a Blue Whale.

tl;dr

People throw $1,500,000 worth of coins into the Trevi Fountain every year. 

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Long Haul Flights Do Not Have Enough Toilets

The meals have been eaten and washed down with a glass of wine.

Twenty minutes later, everyone needs the toilet. Cue, a long queue to use the aircraft toilets.

In the age of airline cost-cutting, replacing a toilet with a seat is far more attractive on the balance sheet.

So how many toilets are ‘enough’?

Methodology

Most people can manage without using the toilet on a short flight of an hour or so. In fact, many people can manage on a flight of 2 or 3 hours.

For this post I looked at four planes that operate long haul routes, where most passengers will use the toilets at least once during the journey:

Introduced Manufacturer Model Airline Seatguru
2006 Boeing 777-200LR Emirates Seat map
2007 Airbus A380 Emirates Seat map
2012 Boeing 747-8 Lufthansa Seat map
2014 Boeing 787-9 Virgin Atlantic Seat map

The rules

There are no US laws specifying minimum numbers of toilets on board planes.

There is also little guidance about recommended ratios of toilets to people elsewhere in the world.

To add some context, UK Health and Safety laws require a ratio of one toilet to start plus one more for each 25 people or part thereof. So in a workplace with 8 people, there would be a requirement for two toilets. In a workplace with 28 people, there should be three toilets, and so on.

The reality

All seats

 

Total Toilet Ratio Rank Plane Total Toilet:Seat Ratio Eco Toilet:Seat Ratio
1 2012 Boeing 747-8 (Lufthansa) 1:28 1:46
2 2014 Boeing 787-9 (Virgin Atlantic) 1:29 1:38
3 2006 Boeing 777-200LR (Emirates) 1:30 1:43
3 2007 Airbus A380 (Emirates) 1:30 1:43

View full table

The Boeing 747-8 has one toilet for every 28 passengers, compared to just one toilet shared between 30 on the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-200LR. The newer planes offer the best ratio of passengers to toilets.

These numbers are considering total toilets across all seat classes. The picture improves in first class where some passengers enjoy 1 seat between 4 people (Boeing 747-8 and 777-200LR). Which of course impacts the numbers for economy passengers. The worst toilet to seat ratio for economy passengers is found on the Boeing 747-8, with one toilet for every 46 passengers.

Toilet efficiency

Let’s assume on an 8 hour flight a passenger visits the toilet twice on each journey, with an average time in the toilet of 4 minutes (8 minutes total).

For this calculation I’m going to only consider economy seats, because, lets be honest, we already know first and business class travellers have it good!

Plane Time in toilet p/pax Total Pax mins in toilet total Each economy toilet use (mins) Toilet in use (8 hours ave) Toilet in use (2 hours ave)
2006 Boeing 777-200LR (Emirates) 8 1728 346 72.00% 288.00%
2007 Airbus A380 (Emirates) 8 3416 342 71.78% 284.67%
2012 Boeing 747-8 (Lufthansa) 8 2208 368 76.67% 306.67%
2014 Boeing 787-9 (Virgin Atlantic) 8 1816 303 63.06% 252.22%

View full table

Overall the toilets on these aircraft are occupied between 63% – 72% of the flight, assuming they are open for use across the whole 8 hours. This equates to each toilet being occupied for around 5.5 hours in total.

That said, it’s not a perfect world. Most people tend to use the bathrooms on these types of flights about an hour after the first meal, and again in the final hour of the flight as it approaches its destination. Let’s assume that’s a 2 hour window.

Again, assuming passenger spend an average of 8 minutes in the toilet the numbers look a lot worse. The toilet utilisation is between 252% – 288%, meaning it is likely there will be someone in the toilet when you come to use it.

tl;dr

The worst toilet to seat ratio for economy passengers is found on the Boeing 747-8, with one toilet for every 46 passengers. At peak times, it’s very likely you’ll have at least two people queuing ahead of you to use the toilet.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The $200,000 Paint Job

Have you seen one of the beautiful British Airways liveries to celebrate the airlines 100 years of flying?

Seeing the BOAC 747 up close a few weeks ago, I started wondering how much paint is required to cover a huge 747.

Painting a small room in a house can cost a small fortune depending on the choice of paint.

I decided to take a look at how much it costs to give a Boeing 747 a fresh coat of paint.

Analysis

Painting an aircraft

Painting of an aircraft is a very detailed exercise due to the following factors:

  • The surface of an aircraft is subject to serious UV radiation.
  • The surface itself is Aluminium, which does not provide the mechanical key the paint needs to hold on to the surface.
  • The temperatures the aircraft could face could be in extremes and the paint applied should be able to take mechanical and thermal shock.
  • Finally the choice of colours are limited and usually gaudy finishes are not applied lest the aesthetic appearance of the aircraft is lost.

There are various layers required when painting the fuselage of an aircraft.

A mild chromate converter is first applied on the surface so that the subsequent coats of paint will adhere to the Aluminium. A primer layer is then applied followed by a number of finish coats which are usually a Poly Urethane based paint.

Amount of paint required

According to Boeing, a paint job weighs 555 lbs on a 747 (and that’s after it dries).

This answer about aircraft paint would suggest the 40% of moisture is lost as aircraft paint drys. So dry a 747 would require 925 lbs of wet paint.

According to the same answer, if paint is applied to the aircraft using an HVLP spray gun, you can guesstimate that your transfer efficiency will be about 50%. Bringing the total paint required for a 747 to 1850 lbs.

A gallon of paint weighs 11.5 lbs, meaning 160.87 gallons of paint will be required to paint a 747.

Cost of paint

A gallon of Sherwin Williams Poly Urethane based paint costs the public $187.43 / gallon on Sky Geek.

That’s a total of $30,151.78 worth of paint for a 747.

It is a fair assumption that bulk orders will receive a significant price discount. Even at 50% that is a total cost of $15,075.89 just for paint.

Cost of time

news article quoted it took Emirates Airlines 6550 hours to repaint 21 aircraft, an average of 312 hours each.

They run a round-the-clock operation, with 26-30 people working at any given time, so that translates into roughly 8500-9000 man hours to complete each plane. If the average entry level salary there is similar to the US at $18/hr, that’s upwards of $175,000 just in labor.

Total cost

Ignoring facility costs for electricity and cooling, it’s safe to say a paint job for a large aircraft could easily exceed $200,000 USD for materials and labour!

It is a regulatory requirement that an aircraft undergoes a thorough inspection – a “D Check”, approximately every 6-10 years. As part of this D-check, the paint is stripped off the aircraft to allow the hull to be thoroughly inspected.

As such, most airlines will wait until the aircraft is due for a D check before repainting.

tl;dr

A Boeing 747 costs $200,000 USD in material and labour costs to repaint.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Airlines Should Charge You $0.01 to Use the Toilet

Did you see the article about United removing olives from their inflight meals leading to a cost saving of $40,000 per year? Here it is, pass it on.

It’s quite astounding isn’t it?

Now imagine all the other things carried by passengers in the cabin. The weight of all their clothes. Phones, laptops, and tablets. The bottles of water, or liquid they’ve consumed in the airport bar before the flight. Olives seem even more insignificant now.

With airlines continually introducing restrictions, and in-turn “added-extras”, I decided to take a look at the cost of flying the smaller items we, currently, pay no attention to bringing onboard.

Methodology

In 2017 I wrote a post about airlines undercharging for fuel. Sadly that post did not factor in load-factor (how full the plane was). Secondly, the prices for fuel in that post are now out of date. Updated fuel costs from IATA show an average $1.87 per gallon versus $1.45 at the time of writing in 2017.

Five Thirty Eight writers Luke Jensen and Brian Yutko created a more detailed model for weight to fuel cost in June 2014.

They calculated each marginal pound added in weight from carry on items cost an additional $0.01 USD per / lb for short-haul routes (500 miles) and $0.073 USD per / lb for cross-country flights (2,500 miles).

Adjusting for fuel cost (in June 2014 jet fuel cost $2.88 USD / gal) vs $1.87 (-35%) today (Feb 2019) this equates to an additional $0.006 USD per / lb for short-haul routes (500 miles) and $0.047 USD per / lb for cross-country flights (2,500 miles).

Converted to kilograms (because I don’t understand imperial) equals an additional $0.003 USD per / kg for short-haul routes (500 miles) and $0.02 USD per / kg for cross-country flights (2,500 miles).

These calculations assume a load factor of 85% (how full the plane was), equal to 122 passengers, on a Boeing 737-700, a commonly used plane (especially by Southwest airlines) on short-haul routes of 500 miles (equivalent to San Francisco to San Diego) and cross-country routes of 2,500 miles (East to West Coast USA)

I simply Googled weights of common items that might be taken onboard.

Results

Fuel cost of carry on short haul routes

Item Weight (kg) Cost USD (1 pax) Cost USD (122 pax) Cost USD (122 pax, return) Cost USD (122 pax, return, 365 days)
1 litre water 1 $0.00 $0.36 $0.72 $786.90
Laptop 2.3 $0.01 $0.83 $1.65 $1,809.87
Shoes 1 $0.00 $0.36 $0.72 $786.90
Banana 0.183 $0.00 $0.07 $0.13 $144.00
Magazine 0.25 $0.00 $0.09 $0.18 $196.72
Suitcase 5.4 $0.02 $1.94 $3.88 $4,249.25
Chocolate bar 0.05 $0.00 $0.02 $0.04 $39.34
Mobile phone 0.174 $0.00 $0.06 $0.13 $136.92
Clothes 2 $0.01 $0.72 $1.44 $1,573.80
Max carry on weight 18.1 $0.05 $6.50 $13.01 $14,242.85
Sum 30.457 $0.09 $10.94 $21.89 $23,966.55

Download chart.

Assuming you carry all these items onboard a 500 mile flight, you’ll cost the airline $0.09 more in fuel. Not much when compared to the ticket cost, but remember this calculation does not consider the weight the airline has already accounted for (your weight, bags, etc.).

If everyone does the same, all 122 passengers, that’s an additional $10.94 per flight, or $21.89 if you count the return leg too. If the flight operates everyday for a year that’s an addition $24,000 in fuel costs for the airline!

Fuel cost of carry on cross country routes

Item Weight (kg) Cost USD (1 pax) Cost USD (122 pax) Cost USD (122 pax, return) Cost USD (122 pax, return, 365 days)
1 litre water 1 $0.02 $2.62 $5.25 $5,744.36
Laptop 2.3 $0.05 $6.03 $12.07 $13,212.02
Shoes 1 $0.02 $2.62 $5.25 $5,744.36
Banana 0.183 $0.00 $0.48 $0.96 $1,051.22
Magazine 0.25 $0.01 $0.66 $1.31 $1,436.09
Suitcase 5.4 $0.12 $14.16 $28.33 $31,019.52
Chocolate bar 0.05 $0.00 $0.13 $0.26 $287.22
Mobile phone 0.174 $0.00 $0.46 $0.91 $999.52
Clothes 2 $0.04 $5.25 $10.49 $11,488.71
Max carry on weight 18.1 $0.39 $47.48 $94.95 $103,972.83
Sum 30.457 $0.65 $79.89 $159.78 $174,955.84

Download chart.

On a longer flight of 2,500, or across the USA, these items will cost the airline $0.65 additional in fuel. Carrying on 1 litre of water (in a bottle or your body) will cost the airline $0.02 per passenger, or $2.63 for a flight of 122 people.

All items, again assuming the route operates once per day return, adds up to an additional fuel cost of $175,000.

If airlines asked passengers to travel naked on this hypothetical cross-country route, they could save $11,500 in fuel costs each year. You can see why even the cost of a single olive adds up quickly.

Back of napkin maths

Often airlines might run upwards many variations of trans-America routes. Assuming 100 variations of routes, running return once per day (probably an underestimate), that’s an additional $17.5 million in fuel costs for the additional weight per year using my numbers!

Thinking globally (100,000 flights per day), this number could easily cross many billions in savings per year (and a whole lot of emissions!).

Improvements

These are very rough calculations for a single type of plane over fixed distances. It would be great to see an analysis like this done on a real per-route basis.

tl;dr

On a cross country USA route of 2,500 miles, an airline needs to pay $0.02 in additional fuel costs for you to carry on 1 litre of water. A bladder can hold around 0.5 litres, or $0.01 worth of fuel on the same flight.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

269 billion litres of jet fuel was burned in 2017 — Enough fuel to fill 5.4 billion VW Golfs

Fuel is one of the biggest operating expenditures for airlines — and you’re probably being undercharged for it (at least in 2017).

We know that the airline industry is a heavy polluter. The fact an A380’s fuel tank has a capacity of 320,000 litres (84,500 US Gal) hints at just how much fuel is required to fly across the world.

Now consider the volume of commercial flights each day. Some estimates suggest this number exceeds 100,000 per day. That’s a lot of jet fuel.

I decided to delve into how much fuel airlines are using (and what it costs them).

Methodology

The US Bureau of Transportation Statistics publishes data on fuel consumption and fuel cost reported by US based airlines for both domestic and international operation.

I selected the airlines classed as major (>$20 million revenue / year) that were operational for the whole of 2017 (the last year with full data reported at the time of writing).

Other statistics in this post were pulled from Wikipedia. Citations here.

Results

Fuel consumption of major US airlines 2017

Fuel consumption and fuel cost of major US airlines 2017

Download chart.

In total the 17 major US airlines consumed 64,853,949,435 (64.9 billion) litres of fuel in 2017. 42.7 billion litres was used for domestic routes and 22.2 billion litres on international routes.

This amount is enough to fill 1.3 billion VW Golf’s with a 50 litre fuel tank (of course, you would not want to use jet fuel)!

Unfortunately I do not have the exact figures for how many flying kilometres this amount of fuel represents. But I can estimate…

According to this Wikipedia article, jet fuel weighs 0.81 kg/l. This equates to US airlines using 52.5 billion kilograms of fuel in 2017.

Turing to Wikipedia again, a Boeing 787-9 burns 5.77 kg of fuel per km. Using this as the average figure for fuel efficiency across all US major airlines would mean that 9.1 billion kilometres was flown in 2017.

Check my calculations here.

Cost of fuel for major US airlines 2017

Rank cost Rank consumption Airline Consumption (litres) Cost (dollars)
2 1 American Airlines 13,505,990,837 $5,753,704,000
1 2 Delta Air Lines 12,927,667,253 $5,936,840,000
3 3 United Airlines 12,627,196,549 $5,452,584,000
4 4 Southwest Airlines 7,739,452,445 $3,747,046,000
5 5 Federal Express 4,319,701,694 $1,866,463,000
7 6 UPS 3,134,338,407 $1,341,345,000
6 7 JetBlue Airways 2,997,628,325 $1,362,642,000
8 8 Alaska Airlines 1,884,891,914 $902,694,000
9 9 Spirit Air Lines 1,305,531,128 $615,581,000
10 10 Hawaiian Airlines 983,120,187 $421,989,000
11 11 Frontier Airlines 915,573,331 $385,901,000
12 12 Virgin America 778,049,386 $334,432,000
14 13 Polar Air Cargo Airways 749,855,652 $322,778,000
13 14 Allegiant Air 676,543,617 $327,022,000
15 15 SkyWest Airlines 303,813,221 $161,036,000
17 16 Airborne Express 2,316,671 $1,095,000
16 17 ExpressJet Airlines 2,278,817 $1,532,000

Full table.

These airlines paid $28,934,684,000 USD ($28.9 billion) for fuel in 2017.

You will notice American Airlines used more fuel than Delta (13.5 vs. 12.9 billion litres), but paid less for it ($5.75 vs $5.94 billion USD) in 2017. This is because airlines strategy for buying and holding fuel differs. In fact, very large teams working for airlines are solely dedicated to the task of buying fuel, for good reason.

Cost paid per litre of jet fuel by US major airlines 2017

Download chart.

There is a fairly large range in price paid per litre of jet fuel between these airlines. Frontier Airlines fuel team are doing the best job paying around $0.42 per litre in 2017. ExpressJet paid $0.67 per litre! This largely the result of economies of scale. Frontier bought 915,573,331 litres of fuel in 2017, whereas ExpressJet bought only 2,278,817 litres.

Worldwide jet fuel consumption

According to this Forbes article, there were 4 billion air travellers in 2017. The US Bureau of Transport and Statistics reports 965 million of these, or 24%, were from the US.

If 64,853,949,435 litres represents roughly 24% of all worldwide jet fuel consumption (US consumption), in 2017 airlines consumed 268,824,660,869 (269 billion) litres of jet fuel worth an estimated $120,561,183,333.

Taking the 2017 world population (7.5 billion), that means 35.8 litres of jet fuel was burned per person in 2017! And this is an underestimation (see improvements).

Improvements

The final calculations for world fuel consumption in 2017 need to be improved. I only considered fuel consumption for major US airlines, and omitted smaller airlines operating in the US and non-commercial traffic.

This means that fuel consumption in the US will be higher than the figure I used (64.8 billion litres), and thus so will the figure for fuel consumption for worldwide airlines.

tl;dr

An estimated 269 billion litres of jet fuel was burned by the largest commercial airlines in 2017 — 35.8 litres for each person on the planet.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Pilots are Exposed to the Equivalent of 75 Chest X-Rays per Year

I fly a lot.

I remember when I first started travelling significantly, on one flight a woman sitting next to me told me of her worries about the radiation she would be exposed to during the long flight.

The thought lingered in my mind for a few seconds, but I never thought any more of it.

Until a friend posed this question over dinner a few nights ago…

Methodology

I looked at radiation doses using data from radiologyinfo.org (via The Guardian) and compared it to findings from a number of studies investigating radiation exposure during commercial airline flights.

Results

Radiation dosages

Let’s start by looking at radiation guidelines, and set some points of reference to make this data more quantifiable.

Event Radiation reading, millisievert (mSv)
Single dose, fatal within weeks 10,000
Typical doseage recorded in those Chernobyl workers who died within a month 6,000
Single does which would kill half of those exposed to it within a month 5,000
Single doseage which would cause radiation sickness, including nausea, lower white blood cell count. Not fatal 1,000
Accumulated doseage estimated to cause a fatal cancer many years later in 5% of people 1,000
Max radiation levels recorded at Fukushima plant yesterday, per hour 400
Exposure of Chernobyl residents who were relocated after the blast in 1986 350
Recommended limit for radiation workers every five years 100
Lowest annual dose at which any increase in cancer is clearly evident 100
CT scan: heart 16
CT scan: abdomen & pelvis 15
Dose in full-body CT scan 10
Natural radiation we’re all exposed to, per year 2
CT scan: head 2
Spine x-ray 1.5
Radiation per hour detected at Fukushimia site, 12 March 1.015
Mammogram breast x-ray 0.4
Chest x-ray 0.1
Dental x-ray 0.005

Download data.

The scientific unit of measurement for whole body radiation dose, called “effective dose,” is the millisievert (mSv).

Most routine x-rays expose us to very low levels of radiation. A dental x-ray exposes a patient to 0.005 mSv. Putting this into context, the lowest annual dose at which any increase in cancer is clearly evident is 100 mSv, or 20,000 dental x-rays.

Radiation exposure during flying

Route mSv per 100 block hours mSv per 1 hour
Seattle to Portland 0.03 0.0003
New York to Chicago 0.39 0.0039
Los Angeles to Honolulu 0.26 0.0026
London to New York 0.51 0.0051
Athens to New York 0.63 0.0063
Tokyo to New York 0.55 0.0055

Download data.

Based on studies, the radiation dose rate on 6 typical commercial airline flights at an altitude of 35,000 feet varies between 0.0003 mSV and 0.00055 per hour (mean average = 0.0004 msv). It is important to note that radiation dose levels represent a complex function of duration of flight, latitude, and altitude.

That said, assuming the average flight times from the route data from my post: The Worlds Shortest Commercial Flight. 2 Minutes to Fly 3 Kilometres, the graph and table below show estimated radiation exposure for the 38 longest (by time) routes.

Radiation Doses (mSv) for 38 Longest Flights by Time (2017)

Download chart.

Rank (mSv) From To Distance km Scheduled duration Radiation dose (mSv)
1 Auckland Doha 14,524 17:35:00 0.0070
2 Auckland Dubai 14,203 17:15:00 0.0069
3 Dallas/Fort Worth Sydney 13,804 16:55:00 0.0068
3 San Francisco Singapore 13,593 16:55:00 0.0068
5 Johannesburg Atlanta 13,582 16:40:00 0.0067
6 Dubai-International Los Angeles 13,420 16:35:00 0.0066
7 Abu Dhabi Los Angeles 13,502 16:30:00 0.0066
7 Jeddah Los Angeles 13,409 16:30:00 0.0066
9 Doha Los Angeles 13,367 16:25:00 0.0066
10 San Francisco Singapore 13,593 16:20:00 0.0065
10 Dubai-International Houston-Intercontinental 13,144 16:20:00 0.0065
10 Dallas/Fort Worth Hong Kong 13,072 16:20:00 0.0065
10 Abu Dhabi Dallas/Fort Worth 12,962 16:20:00 0.0065
10 Doha Houston-Intercontinental 12,951 16:20:00 0.0065
10 Dubai-International Dallas/Fort Worth 12,940 16:20:00 0.0065
10 Doha Dallas/Fort Worth 12,764 16:20:00 0.0065
17 Abu Dhabi San Francisco 13,128 16:15:00 0.0065
18 New York Guangzhou 12,878 16:05:00 0.0064
18 New York Guangzhou 12,878 16:05:00 0.0064
18 Johannesburg New York 12,825 16:05:00 0.0064
18 Mumbai Newark 12,565 16:05:00 0.0064
22 New York Hong Kong 12,983 16:00:00 0.0064
22 New York Hong Kong 12,983 16:00:00 0.0064
22 New York Hong Kong 12,983 16:00:00 0.0064
22 Newark Hong Kong 12,980 16:00:00 0.0064
26 Houston-Intercontinental Taipei 12,776 15:55:00 0.0064
26 Mumbai Newark 12,565 15:55:00 0.0064
28 Dubai-International San Francisco 13,041 15:50:00 0.0063
28 Newark Hong Kong 12,980 15:50:00 0.0063
28 Boston Hong Kong 12,827 15:50:00 0.0063
28 Los Angeles Melbourne 12,748 15:50:00 0.0063
28 Los Angeles Melbourne 12,748 15:50:00 0.0063
28 Los Angeles Melbourne 12,748 15:50:00 0.0063
34 Toronto Hong Kong 12,569 15:35:00 0.0062
35 Toronto Hong Kong 12,569 15:30:00 0.0062
35 Toronto Hong Kong 12,569 15:30:00 0.0062
35 New York Taipei 12,566 15:30:00 0.0062
38 New York Taipei 12,566 15:20:00 0.0061

View calculations.

The mean average mSv for the 38 longest flights by time, with durations between 15:20 and 17:35, is 0.0064 mSv. Put another way, just under 6.5% of the radiation you would receive from a chest x-ray. The longest flight by time, Auckland to Doha at 17 hours 35 minutes, exposes passengers to and estimated 0.007 mSV, which is about 0.32% of the average radiation you would be exposed to each year naturally.

Frequent flyers

In 2017, business traveler Tom Stuker became the world’s most frequent flyer, logging 18,000,000 miles (28,968,192 km) of air travel on United Airlines over the last 14 years — that’s 722.8 times (51.6 times per year) around the world (assuming 40,075 km equatorial circumference of earth)!

Assuming an average flight speed (550 mph), Stuker’s 18,000,000 miles would translate into 32,727 hours (2337.6 hours per year) of flight time or 212 mSv (15.12 mSv per year) of radiation. About the same as a CT scan of your abdomen and pelvis each year.

Most pilots typically log under 1,000 hours per year so airline workers would have risk levels about half that of Stuker’s (less than 7.5 mSv per year).

tl;dr

Even if you’re a frequent flyer, the risk from radiation to your health is low. Pilots are exposed to no more than 7.5 mSv per year, equivalent to 75 chest x-rays, well below the lowest annual dose at which any increase in cancer is clearly evident (100 mSv).

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.