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The Future of Air Travel

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Essay title: The Future of Air Travel


As the holiday travel season moves into top gear, most passengers will be unaware of the fact that the heavily-booked flight that they are traveling on will most likely not be making any money for the airline that is operating it. As the fuel prices get higher, airlines are suffering either by adding to the price of airfare or sacrificing some of their profits by paying more for fuel to keep the cost of air travel attractive. But when the prices get too high for fuel the airfare will be going up with it, and less people will be flying because of the eventual affordability of air travel. Then we will be searching for the new energy resource to power flight. Will hydrogen fuel cells do the trick? But would not a hydrogen powered plane with fifty-thousand pounds of hydrogen turn into a flying hydrogen bomb? What about the environmental effect of civil aircraft? Is airline travel a major contributing factor to global warming?

Aircraft manufacturers are spending billions of dollars trying to create new commercial aircraft in the name of ‘efficiency’. Boeing is running against Airbus in creating the more favorable style of future air travel for both the airlines and the passengers. The major jet engine manufacturers, Rolls-Royce, General Electric, and Pratt&Whitney, are also in the race for the creation of the most fuel- efficient jet engines to power these massive aircraft. However, the old aircraft are still polluting. Those massive jets are side-by-side with the automobile in being a major contribution to global warming. What are the airlines doing about it? Is the government making restrictions on the usage of old commercial aircraft like the DC-8/9/10 which can be seen with the naked eye spilling dark exhaust into our atmosphere?

The End of Cheap Oil

19.3 billion gallons of jet fuel were consumed in the twelve month period ending in August 2006 by U.S. passenger and cargo airlines. At a consumption rate of 19.0 to 19.5 billion gallons per year, every penny increase in the price of jet fuel adds 190-195 million dollars to the annual fuel costs for U.S. airlines (airlines). The crude oil price (in dollars per barrel) has more than doubled in the six years between the year 2000 and year 2006. Although consumers have been seeing the airlines try to add the fuel surcharges to the regular airfare, those surcharges have often failed to stick especially in the bitty domestic air travel showground. This is because of the demand for air travel being highly price-sensitive. People may be willing to fly these days, expecting lower prices than they used to pay. This is mainly because of the intense competition between airlines in addition to the travelers’ easy going for another means of transportation like carpooling or driving. This shows up in particularly short-range flights, where the air travel experience seems doubtful and substitutes for cars or buses are more practical. Even though airlines have recently made price increases, the price increase is nothing compared to the magnitude of what the airlines have to pay for the increase in jet fuel prices.

Conventionally, some airlines have gotten around some of their fuel requirements by reserving future purchases at a set price. But this requires that the airline has a rather healthy financial status because it is somewhat a gamble. Some airlines had to clear up these ‘hedges’ because of court-organized restructuring of the airline or to free cash to meet urgent financial requirements.

New Energy Resources

The hydrogen economy is often publicized as a solution to the hydrocarbon ills of the oil dependent transport systems that exist today. Having jets run on hydrogen would be highly advantageous by ending nitrous oxide and greenhouse gas pollution from jet engines, while being highly efficient.

The idea of fuel cells is not complicated. They do not have any moving parts and work like batteries, combining a fuel and an oxidant, mainly hydrogen and oxygen from the air, without making any combustion. But while the use of the battery is all-encompassing, fuel cells are still in the laboratory. Like the introduction of all new technologies, the device must not only be as cheap as the competition already in use, it has to be substantially cheaper if infrastructure changes are required (Fuel Cell).

Fuel cells have to beat the turbine engines, not only in principal, but the cost per kilowatt for buying and installing it. But research from the United Kingdoms Canfield University has concluded that the fuel cell is still too far heavy for propulsion. A larger aircraft requires large jet engines, each weighing around 8,600 pounds each. The study shows that today’s best fuel cells would

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