Virgin Atlantic is using new behavioral science research to train pilots to save fuel


Quartz, June 23, 2016


A new study found that Virgin Atlantic Airways pilots used less fuel when they were told their usage was being monitored, a striking example of applying behavioral science techniques for real-world impact. The economists conducting the study analyzed data from more than 40,000 flights and found “the behavioral effects of such interventions are currently estimated as the most cost-effective way to prevent a metric ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.”

Pilots have some control over the amount of fuel they consume and even how much is loaded onto the airplane. Changing altitude or routes can save fuel. When your flight that took off 34 minutes late magically arrives at the gate on time, pilots could have sped up in the air, burning more fuel to make up for the lost time.

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