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Flying is getting expensive - especially for the airlines. The latest rises in fuel prices have massively affected profits. So the decision by Emirates, the Gulf carrier, to save money by scrapping in-flight magazines sounds sensible at first.

The logic goes like this: all those glossy ads stuffed into the seat pocket weigh about a kilo. If there's one magazine per seat on a big plane such as the new Airbus A380 - which can carry 550 people - that's a lot of kilos. A lighter plane requires less jet fuel to go the same distance. If you get rid of the mags you can save several thousand dollars worth of kerosene on every flight.

But if you really wanted to save weight, or give your aircraft several hundred more miles of flying range, it would make more sense to jettison all the paraphernalia associated with emergency landing on water. Life jackets and inflatable rafts weigh much more than all that glossy paper - probably several tonnes for a large airliner.

This sounds crazy. Or at least like a measure that would doom the passengers on any flight that crashed on water. However, the truth is that on the rare occasions when a modern airliner crashes into the sea, most people on board are doomed whether or not their plane carries rafts and life jackets.

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Philip Barrell
January 16th, 2009
12:01 PM
It turns out that the whole "Jet airliners don't float" claim seems to be, well, rubbish. See today's NY Times

Andrew M
October 24th, 2008
10:10 PM
A lot of (over-land) American flights don't bother with lifejackets. The safety announcement tells you that your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device if the need arises. And that's it. That makes a lot of sense.

September 26th, 2008
2:09 PM
I recall a flight I took from Ghardaia (in the north of the Algerian Sahara) to Tamanrasset (in the south of the Algerian Sahara) some years ago. We got the full dance, tie here, inflate there, at the start of a flight that took us over nothing but rocks and sand from start to finish.

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