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The real reason why air travel is slower than 40 years ago

Did you know that 40 years ago you were able to fly from New York to Houston in less than two hours and 37 minutes? Today, the same route will probably take an hour longer. Given the fact that technology and air travel have seen amazing innovations over the past forty years, this trend seems alarming but the answer is actually pretty simple.

Airlines can save thousands, if not millions of dollars by just having their planes travel a bit slower. That’s right, the real reason why flights today take longer is fuel efficiency. Fuel is perhaps the biggest expense an airline company has so something as simple as a minor slowdown can have a huge impact on their finances.

The days of complimentary drinks and snacks on flights are over, and the real reason for this is, yes you guessed it, fuel efficiency. Fuel costs are the reason behind most of the measures airlines have taken over the past few years, including charging extra fees for checked-in or larger baggage (forty years ago you could check a bag for free), reducing the amount of food and drinks offered on board, or starting to charge extra for them. The lighter a plane is, the cheaper fuel costs are, and airlines are doing everything they can to reduce their fuel expenses. A Reuters report showed that fuel consumption reached its peak in 2005 and since then has witnessed a steady decline of around 15% thanks to the measures introduced by most airline companies.

Most airlines will also allow for delays in their schedule and account for the time the aircraft spends on the runway before take-off or after landing. That’s the primary reason why flights arrive early today – not because of tailwind, but simply for the lack of any serious or unexpected delays.

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