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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

Updated 4 hours ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.