Picture of Gerard Arpey
We’d love to hear what you
think about our airline and
our employees.
Please write to us at

Want to sign up for free e-mail
notification of Gerard Arpey's column
or to see past columns? Click here!

There are very few issues that are as important to our collective future as energy. Like everyone else, American Airlines has a big stake in reducing energy price volatility, enhancing the security of our nation’s energy supply, and reducing emissions, including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with fossil fuels. The skyrocketing price of jet fuel has sharpened our focus on conservation, and the AA team is continually finding new ways to reduce the amount of fuel we burn without compromising safety or service. We are working hard to keep our weight down — that is, to eliminate items that make aircraft heavier (forcing us to burn more fuel) but that don’t add to the customer experience. We’re also conserving fuel through improved engine and aerodynamic performance. We’ve installed winglets — upward wing extensions that increase lift and thus increase fuel economy — on hundreds of aircraft, and we’ve made more changes to our operations than I have the space to describe. Perhaps most important, we are investing billions of dollars in new, more fuel-efficient aircraft.

There is a lot we are doing to conserve fuel and reduce our environmental footprint. But as I have described before, the most important thing that could be done to enable American and the rest of the industry to reduce emissions is the implementation of a modernized Air Traffic Control system in the United States that would no longer force us to fly inefficient, indirect routes that lead to tens of millions of metric tons of unnecessary emissions every year. Studies have shown that the inefficiency of the ATC system drives 10 to 15 percent of all the emissions from commercial aviation.

As we search for new ways to burn less fuel, we are exploring the potential of using cleaner alternative fuels. AA belongs to the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, a group of airlines, manufacturers, fuel suppliers, airports, and government agencies focused on researching and developing alternative jet fuels. We have also recently reached agreements with companies that are developing renewable fuels to power AA equipment on the ground and in the air. Beginning in 2012, much of our ground-service equipment at Los Angeles International Airport will run on renewable synthetic diesel fuel produced in California primarily from urban green waste, such as yard clippings. We also signed a memorandum of understanding with a company that develops jet fuel using oils from camelina, a rotational crop that grows in the western United States. These initiatives have a long way to go, but they have the potential to provide environmentally friendly, renewable alternatives to the fuels we use today.

As all airlines do, we hope to grow our business in the years to come. And while it is still in the early stages, the development of alternative, renewable fuels could enable us to effectively decouple our own growth from that of GHG emissions. I hasten to add that safety is and always will be our top priority, and there is a higher hurdle to clear in the development of alternative fuels for jets than there is for cars and other ground-based vehicles. Jet fuel must meet stringent specifications relating to stability and reliability at altitude and in various pressure and temperature conditions. We are excited about the potential of alternative fuels for increasing competition in aviation fuel supply, for reducing emissions, and for creating green jobs in the United States while decreasing our dependence on energy from other countries, but we can neither sugarcoat nor ignore the reality that an alternative to jet fuel will succeed only if it is economically feasible for suppliers and purchasers alike.

It takes a lot of energy and resources to operate a global airline, but we think we can connect the planet while we do our part to protect it. Thank you for flying with us today. Wherever in the world you’re headed, have a great trip!

I want to close this, my first column of our new decade, by again thanking my colleagues at American Airlines for rising to meet every challenge during the last 10 years. And of course, thank you for flying with us today. Happy New Year!

Signatureof Gerard Arpey

Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman & CEO
American Airlines