For months now we’ve been hearing about all the new fees airlines are imposing on us to help defray their operating costs – baggage charges, snack charges, pillow charges, on-line reservation charges.

It’s somehow refreshing to learn that Hawaiian Airlines – and a few other carriers – are doing some things on their own to cut costs. Hawaii largest carrier is power washing its jet engines more frequently, and that reduces the cruising speed on its long-haul flights. Now the airline is towing its planes to the airport runways instead of using the jet engines. Those fuel conservation efforts are expected to save about $4 million this year. Fuel has replaced labor as the industry’s number-one cost driver; the price for a gallon of jet fuel has nearly tripled since 2005. Last year, Hawaiian spent about $300 million on fuel, which was an increase of nearly $50 million, or 21 percent, from 2006’s $240 million.

The airline also announced that it plans to invest $10 million to purchase eight winglets – finlike attachments — for its long-haul aircraft. That will save more than two million gallons of jet fuel each year and pay for themselves in four years.

While there’s no end in sight for the rising cost of air travel, the airlines’ conservation efforts are a welcome alternative to the airlines’ traditional way of dealing with those costs: Raising their ticket prices and tacking on new fees for services that used to come with the price of your ticket.

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