Saves Less Than 100 Lbs Per Plane... But Every Little Bit
Let's imagine for a minute that you own a major airline
(first off, we're sorry -- Ed.) If there
was a piece of equipment onboard your planes that adds weight, but
is seldom used -- and may be of dubious assistance if it is called
upon -- might it be prudent to remove that equipment, in order to
save those pounds and, by extension, even a small bit of fuel?
Air Canada's regional affiliate, Jazz, says yes... but some
object to what the carrier recently removed from its planes: the
Transport Canada says the airline is within its rights. The
regulations allow airliners to fly over water without life vests,
as long as those flights fly within 50 nautical miles of the shore.
Jazz altered several routes along the eastern coast of Canada and
the United States to comply with the rule.
"We operate within Transport Canada regulations and in this case
we're within their regulations for operations over water," Jazz
spokesperson Debra Williams told The Toronto Star.
The planes will still be equipped with floatation seat cushions,
which passengers may strap themselves to in order to keep afloat.
But Tom Hinton, formerly director for aviation at Canada's
Transportation Safety Board, says those cushions have "always been
a kind of a Plan B," and weren't meant to be the primary means of
"It's standard that any airplane has to be evacuated within a
couple of minutes and if you've got everybody standing up in the
aisles trying to tear up their seat cushion, and carry it under
their arms, and get out a hatch, it's really going to slow things
down," said Hinton, now a consultant on aviation safety.
"The person has to hold on to it and the difficulty there is if
the water is cold ... you can't hang on very long before your
fingers and your hands won't respond," he adds.
In comparison, life vests are designed to keep the wearer's head
above water, so they can breathe. But Hinton admits that's little
comfort, given the cold waters Jazz flights operate over. "[I]t's
not likely you're going to drown, but the issue is the time spent
in the water and how much body heat you lose before you die of
hypothermia," he says.
Each life vest weighs just over one pound... so figure about an
85 lbs. savings on a 75-seat aircraft. That's not a lot... but in
this age when airlines are desperately fighting to recoup losses
wherever they can, even a miniscule savings is worthwhile for the
"When you're trying to save every bit of money you can to make
the airline more productive, every bit counts," Hinton said.
Rotman School of Management professor Joseph D'Cruz has studied
the airline industry for 25 years. He estimates at most, Jazz will
save about two percent in its fuel costs by ditching the life
vests, and taking other weight-saving steps such as carrying less
water for passengers.
Jazz's action "says to me that the financial circumstances of
the airline industry are in such disarray that a 1 percent cost is
being considered worthwhile," says D'Cruz. "I think accumulatively,
it's making air travel a relatively unpleasant experience."