Airlines discover the secret to saving cash: Take a slooooow ride!

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If you drive, then chances are that you, like almost everybody else, have been looking for little techniques to reduce your gas consumption. In their quest to save money, airlines have begun doing the same. While tricks like charging for the first checked bag and hiring extra carry-on inspectors have captured the public's interest, a less-obvious technique is also paying major dividends: Planes are flying slower.

Recently, two European airlines, EasyJet Plc (Europe's second-largest discount airline) and BMI, have asked their pilots to fly slower to reduce gas intake. In the case of easyJet, this has come in the form of a missive asking for a 2% reduction in flying speeds, while BMI has asked for a 3 mph drop.

It's worth noting that both of these airlines are discount carriers. EasyJet, in fact, seems to be following the pay-as-you-go, charge a fee for everything model that American Airlines has been flirting with. In this context, it's easy to understand how the company might be searching for ways to eke out every single penny.

On this side of the Atlantic, several airlines, including Southwest, United, JetBlue, and Northwest have been experimenting with the technique, and have found that it can save hundreds of dollars per flight. Southwest, in fact, expects to save $42 million this year by flying just a little bit slower. While this extends the length of each flight, the difference is negligible, generally lasting only a few minutes.

Now if they could only find a way to transfer that savings back into free checked baggage!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He recently opened his own airline. Although they have yet to fly a single plane, they've already cut costs by firing ten pilots and eliminating most of their flights!

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