Airlines slow down to cut costs

Ever notice a flight taking longer than it did a few years ago? It could be caused by the airline intentionally slowing down in an effort to cut fuel costs. The Associated Press reports that many airlines routinely add several flying minutes to flights to conserve fuel.

Southwest claims that by extending flights by one to three minutes, it could save up to $42 million this year, while last week Northwest saved $535 and 162 gallons of fuel by adding eight minutes to a Minneapolis-to-Paris flight.

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Unlike other cost-cutting measures such as fuel surcharges and new fees, the additional minutes added to flights won't matter much to travelers. "If it means that airlines can keep their costs down, keep their ticket prices down, and save a little fuel, that's fine," consumer advocate Travis Plunkett told the AP.

Airlines must be careful when slowing down flights, however. If an aircraft drops below a certain speed, which varies from plane to plane, fuel usage can rise rather than fall.

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