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Airlines cutting operating costs by helping planes lose weight

(CBS 58) -- Airlines are looking to reinvent the average airplane while at the same time, saving some money. 

A team at United Airlines is focused on making its entire 750 plane fleet as light as possible. 

Every little bit counts, even on a plane that weighs more than 250,000 pounds. 

"Anytime we can reduce even an ounce of weight, that means we burn less fuel to fly to that destination," said Aaron Stash with United Airlines. 

United rethought everything about its aircraft from what is stocked in the galley, to re-designing its bathrooms. Some got smaller while others got new lighter seats, many without heavy video monitors. 

New beverage carts weigh 27 pounds which is about half the weight of the old 50-pound carts. New cargo containers are about 80 pounds lighter, which will save two million gallons of fuel a year and stopping duty-free sales saved United another 1.4 million gallons -- a combined savings of about $7 million. 

Other airlines are also pinching pounds. Southwest is rolling out slimline seats in its new 737 MAX fleet, they're lighter and take up less space. 

The low-fare carrier saved 148,000 gallons of fuel by changing how it stocks the galleys and dropping glass bottles for cans. 

Giving pilots tablet instead of paper manuals saves 80 pounds a flight. Although it doesn't sound like much, it translates to nearly 576,000 gallons of fuel a year, more than a million dollars in savings annually. 

And fuel may soon be a thing of the past. 

Crowds in Norway snapped photos as researchers tested a battery-powered aircraft. 

"This is kind of the first example that we are moving fast forward. We do have to make sure that it's safe. People will not fly if they don't trust it. But 20 years from now, I think when we come to 2040 this is going to be a reality," said Norwegian Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen. 

Norway's Transport Minister says battery prices are falling and plane makers like Boeing and Airbus are also working on electric aircrafts. 

"For transportation needs we need airplanes that can hold 30, 40, 100 people for the domestic use. We are seeing a development going really fast," Solvik-Olsen said. 

Norwegian officials hope to have those battery-powered planes flying commercially in the next seven years. As for U.S. carries, experts say there's no guarantee yet that cutting weight from planes will necessarily translate to lower fares for us. 


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