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To Cut Fuel Costs, American Switches To 737s

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

And first up this hour, energy and the economy, how companies and individuals are making changes to cut back on consumption. Crude oil prices shot up sharply today. They rose more than $5 due to worries about tensions with Russia. That puts oil back above $120 a barrel. The short-term answer to high energy cost is simple: Use less, drive less, and that's happening.

Over the long term, it takes planning and investment to reduce energy cost. And there are signs that months and months of record prices have inspired permanent changes at all kinds of businesses, from corporate giants to one-man bands.

Let's start our coverage with NPR's Wade Goodwyn in Dallas, home of American Airlines. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: American Airlines is headquartered in Fort Worth.]

WADE GOODWYN: Over the last two months, many Americans have been setting personal bests at the gas pump, watching in wonder and horror as the digits soar like a Chinese gymnast. But as bad as it's gotten, at least your bill didn't come to $61.2 billion. That's what the airline industry will put on its credit card for jet fuel for 2008.

American Airlines is one of the country's legacy airlines with a proud history and lots of outdated MD-80 jets. Like a late '90 Chevy Suburban, these planes still run fine. But if you can imagine an endless stream of $100 bills flowing out of the back of the Super 80's jet engines, that's American Airlines' profits blowing away in the wind. So the company is parking its ravenous workhorses in the Texas desert and buying beautiful new Boeing 737s.

Chuck Schuber(ph) is in charge of corporate planning, and he'll gladly point out the plane's most important attribute.

Mr. CHUCK SCHUBER (Corporate Planning, American Airlines): About 25 percent more efficient than the Super 80 from a fuel perspective, which obviously provides great financial benefits to the company, as well it's a much better product for our customers being a new aircraft with some added amenities that the Super 80 doesn't have.

GOODWYN: Passengers will enjoy the 737's state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment system while airline executives enjoy millions in fuel savings.

Unidentified Woman #1: You are all set to go. Let me just take your ticket.

GOODWYN: Guess what other Texas airline flies fuel-efficient 737s? That would be the airline that has turned a profit for 69 consecutive quarters. But since this is about the Texas carrier with the silver jets, it's the airline that shall remain nameless.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Corrected: August 25, 2008 at 4:19 PM EDT
The introduction to this story describes Dallas as the "home of American Airlines." American Airlines is headquartered in Fort Worth.
Wade Goodwyn is an NPR National Desk Correspondent covering Texas and the surrounding states.
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