Airline Kaizen – Action, not Whining

My Way News – Airlines slow down flights to save on fuel

I’m just thrilled anytime I see an example of an airline making a process improvement (a “kaizen” if you will) instead of their usual game plan of whining, slashing employee pay, or cutting corners.

Drivers have long known that slowing down on the highway means getting more miles to the gallon. Now airlines are trying it, too – adding a few minutes to flights to save millions on fuel.

Southwest Airlines started flying slower about two months ago, and projects it will save $42 million in fuel this year by extending each flight by one to three minutes.

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On one Northwest Airlines flight from Paris to Minneapolis earlier this week alone, flying slower saved 162 gallons of fuel, saving the airline $535. It added eight minutes to the flight, extending it to eight hours, 58 minutes.

That meant flying at an average speed of 532 mph, down from the usual 542 mph.

This is a simple kaizen we can ALL apply. Instead of just whining about high gas prices, drive slower, ease up on the “rabbit starts,” and keep your tires at the proper air pressure. To learn more about mileage improvement tips, click here.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. J Thatcher says

    It seems this topic has been all over the news, and people’s minds lately.

    Personally, I’ve upped my mpg by 5 city and 10 highway on the past two tanks simply by shifting at about 2,000 rpm instead of 3 or 4.
    Obviously, this only works on a manual, but it’s worth noting.

    Also, I’ll confess, I still gun the gas and engage the turbo occasionally, responsibility only takes one so far.

  2. Kevin says

    Hmm… still thinking about this one. That kaizen created value… to the company. But to the customer? I fly to get places quicker, so is 8 minutes slower increase my value? Of course I have other values that include conservation and environmental awareness. But I’d rather see an airline save a few bucks by not investing in silly “red carpets” for the first class folks to walk over when boarding…

  3. Mark Graban says

    Kevin – it doesn’t “create value” but sometimes an organization has to cut costs, hopefully in a way that doesn’t harm the customer at least. If you’re flying trans-atlantic, 8 minutes is a pretty small percentage. I’d personally be willing to make that tradeoff.

    Agreed on other “features” that don’t “add value” like the red carpets.

  4. lafever says

    I have slowed down and used classic hypermiling techiques and see close to 40mpg with my 2003 civic. I carpool with a person who drives a prius and she is only getting 42mpg. I paid a third of the price of a new pruis and getting 90% of the mpg with just changing my behavoir. Change is good.

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