Planes Utilize Most Fuel During Takeoff

Air TravelThe world's airlines use some 205 million tons of aviation fuel (kerosene) each year, producing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and methane. Jet fuel is the second-largest expense to airlines after labor and can amount to 20 percent of companies' operating expenses.

Planes use the most fuel, and produce the most harmful emissions, during takeoff. On short flights, as much as 25 percent of the total fuel consumed is used at this time. The most fuel-efficient route length for airlines is 4,300 kilometers, roughly a flight from Europe to the U.S. East Coast. About 45 percent of all flights in the European Union cover less than 500 kilometers.

In 2003, passengers traveled 2.99 trillion passenger-kilometers, nearing the record levels posted before the unprecedented slowdown in air travel that followed the terrorist attacks of September 2001.

Vital Signs
Purchase a print version or electronic PDF of Vital Signs 2005.

"Air Travel Slowly Recovering," in Vital Signs 2005, pp. 60-61

International Civil Aviation Organization,