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Expand chart
Reproduced from The International Council on Clean Transportation report; Chart: Axios Visuals

U.S.-based airlines are getting more fuel-efficient, but Americans are traveling more and erasing potential gains, according to a study out Thursday.

By the numbers: Fuel efficiency of airplanes has increased by 3% between 2016 and 2018, but the miles passengers have traveled increased 10%. Thus, fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions rose by 7%, according to the report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), a nonprofit environmental group.

Why it matters: Jet-fueled, commercial airplanes account for just 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions, but ICCT says it is set to triple by 2050 as we — and everything we buy and sell — fly more around the world.

What’s new: Budget airline Frontier took the top spot for the second year in a row as the most fuel-efficient U.S. airline. Two other airlines that are considered similarly affordable — Spirit and Southwest — came in tied for second.

  • Those flights are less expensive for the same reason they don't provide a particularly comfortable flying experience: They squeeze a lot of passengers onto their planes, which increases the efficiency.

One level deeper: The chart above shows the relative efficiency of each airline. For context, the least efficient airline (JetBlue) burns 26% more fuel than Frontier.

  • Those are averages, which may mask some of the bigger differences between the airlines, according to ICCT aviation and marine director Dan Rutherford. Fuel efficiency varies widely — 20% to 85% difference in carbon intensity — on specific routes depending on several factors, including layovers and aircraft flown.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.