Science and TechClimate Change


Climate Change Could Make Air Travel Even More Frustrating

As climate change gets worse, airlines might have to impose new weight limits on airplanes — meaning passengers might get kicked off.
Posted at 7:57 PM, Jul 13, 2017

Flying can already be pretty frustrating, but climate change could make air travel even more of a headache.

New research estimates that by 2060, 10-30 percent of yearly flights will need to reduce their weight by an average of about 700 pounds. 

That's probably going to mean bumping a few passengers from flights when temperatures get too hot. 

Higher air temperatures already make it hard for planes to fly — like the heat wave that grounded planes in Phoenix in June.

That's because hotter air generates less lift pushing up on a plane. That means planes have to carry less weight to get off the ground.

There are ways airplane designers could help head off some of the impacts of climate change, but they'd need to start taking midcentury heat into account for air travel to effectively adapt. Changes in runway size, aircraft design and engine performance are all possible ways to ease the effects of climate change on air travel.

And as the thermometer continues to rise, those weight restrictions will likely cost airlines a decent amount of money. To make up the difference, they might have to pass those costs along to passengers.