Of all the energy-intensive industries worldwide, the aviation industry is one of the most efficient. One of the reasons for this fuel-efficiency in the industry is a result of the 1973 oil crisis that saw planes built that were more fuel-efficient than the previous decades.
The oil crisis began when members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) proclaimed an oil embargo. The decision was a punishment targeted against nations that supported Israel in the Yom Kippur war against Egypt. The embargo targeted countries including UK, USA, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands. It lasted from October 1973 to March 1974. During this time oil prices skyrocketed by 300% following the artificial shortage making all transport more expensive. American consumers had their wallets hit as oil prices soared putting everyone in panic of gasoline shortages. The embargo depicted a cartel’s power over the world economy.
The crisis impacted the aviation industry by sparking a fuel-efficiency movement that the industry had to adapt to. Factors such as improved air traffic control, adoption of modern technology and better habits helped progress the market. The aviation industry ended up becoming more efficient as a result of the crisis. Several changes have seen the industry become more efficient since the crisis.
Airlines devoted to saving every ounce. Every ounce of weight mattered, and airlines opted to fly unpainted plains and reduced the inflight magazine copies to save weight. Airlines started squeezing more passengers. Airlines started reducing the seat sizes which they still do to date. On average, the seat pitch has relatively reduced from 35 inches to 31 inches since the 1970s. The seat width has also reduced from 18 inches to 17 inches. Airline services that did not garner enough passengers stopped operating and others were merged.
More importantly, manufacturers in the industry were forced to build more fuel-efficient aircrafts compared to those in use before the oil crisis. For instance, the Boeing 777-200 is 70% more fuel efficient than Comet 4. On average, the industry managed to save approximately 80,000 gallons on every aircraft annually.
The 1970’s crisis knocked economies through increased inflation and high unemployment among others, but it also facilitated the now fuel-efficient aviation industry.
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