Pilots are complaining that rising fuel prices are putting passengers in danger as airlines try and minimize the amount of fuel they put on board planes to save weight and money.
FAA regulations require airliners to take off with enough fuel to reach their destination or an alternate airport, plus another 45 minutes of flight. The regulations also say it's up to dispatchers and pilots to decide the size of fuel loads, with pilots making the final call.
Spare fuel beyond the minimum required by FAA is often added to airliners to allow for weather or airport delays. That adds weight, which burns more fuel and increases a plane's operating cost. A Washington-to-Los Angeles flight by an Airbus 320 with 150 passengers burns about 29,500 pounds, or 4,300 gallons, of fuel. That costs about $14,600. Adding an additional 1,500 pounds, about 219 gallons, would cost about $750 more.
Scary, maybe, or maybe a ploy by pilots and their unions as a bargaining chip to get the flying public on their side in the next contract negotiations. You never really know with stories like this...
[ Edit: Edited on Aug 11, 2008, at 10:50 AM by GregW ]