U.S. Airways: Trading Customers for Fuel…And Paint

I just read that U.S. Airways will be removing the in-flight entertainment systems on domestic flights, stating that the removal of the 500-pound systems will save weight and thus fuel, resulting in $10 million annually.

I understand what the airline industry is going through (my uncle is a pilot for Continental). In an industry that’s riddled with overhead operating costs, they’re being forced to walk the fine line that so many businesses have had to in the past: operating costs versus customer service. I’m as forgiving a airline traveler as any, and realize the alternative – taking the train to California or driving – would simply downright suck.

But eliminating in-flight movies for a meager $10 million annually is ridiculous. I find watching the movie Hairspray five times over in the course of a few months as annoying anybody, but they do serve their purpose and help pass the time, particularly for parents traveling with children.

There’s another reason why it’s ridiculous: the amount of weight saved from the removal of in-flight entertainment systems pals in comparison to what others in aviation have been practicing for decades: leaving the aircraft unpainted, which saves thousands of pounds per plane.

Nor is this new, as American aircraft manufacturers during the Second World War left their aircraft unpainted, allowing the Army Air Corp to trade paint for more bombs and bullets…and fuel…on U.S. bombers being shipped oversees and into combat. There’s also been another company that leverages this weigh-saving practice for more civilian purposes to the tune of tens of millions saved each year in fuel costs – American Airlines.

In this case, the tradeoff between money saved and customers annoyed (and lost) isn’t worth its weight in black gold.