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Stacey Leasca
January 22, 2018

Little changes can make a huge difference — just ask United Airlines.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the airline made one teeny-tiny change by switching up the paper it uses for its in-flight magazine. The change made each issue one ounce lighter. And that small weight reduction has helped them save more than 170,000 gallons of fuel a year, which accounts for $290,000 savings.

Here’s how the math breaks down, according to the Los Angeles Times: “The carrier operates 744 mainline planes that vary in size, carrying 50 to 366 passengers each. For a typical 737 plane carrying 179 passengers, the reduction would mean about 11 pounds per flight.”

United isn’t the only airline to use inventive tactics to ditch some weight and save some cash. As Daily Mail explained in 2013, a number of airlines have made odd changes, like Qantas Airways, which ditched life rafts on overland fights, while GoAir moved to an all-female staff to keep crew weight low. United also stopped selling duty-free items in the cabin in 2017, according to the L.A. Times, which included perfumes, chocolates, and liquor. This helped cut 1.4 million gallons of fuel a year, which accounted for $2.3 million in savings.

And more practically, airlines are also looking into new technology, like using carbon fiber reinforced polymers to cut weight on engines and plane bodies, to save on fuel and help save the environment at the same time.

“If you take 1,000lbs [454kg] out of the weight of an engine that is worth 1% of fuel. It is a big financial saving but also good for the environment,” Ric Parker, former director of research and technology at Rolls-Royce and chairman of the EU’s Clean Sky initiative, told the Financial Times in 2016. “Anything you can do to reduce weight is a good thing.”

Though, there are a few things airline companies are considering that may remove the creature comforts passengers have come to love. For example, Financial Times explained that removing hot meals from select flights means heavy ovens would be removed from planes, while smaller seats with less cushioning means a lighter cabin, but more uncomfortable ride, for all.

But, if the airlines actually pass these savings on to passengers with less expensive ticket prices, perhaps having a slightly less comfortable ride and lighter magazines could be worth it.

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