Flights from Europe to North America will take slightly longer and nudge up airline fuel costs if climate change strengthens high altitude winds as widely expected, a study said on Wednesday.
The headwind into a stronger jet stream should lengthen westbound flights by about five minutes, slightly more than the time saved in the other direction to Europe with a tailwind, it said.
“We have good reason to think the jet stream is speeding up,” author Paul Williams of Reading University told Reuters of the study in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
If net return flight times get longer, the effect could add 2,000 hours to annual flight times every year and an extra 7.2 million gallons (33 million litres) of fuel, assuming flights over the North Atlantic stay at about 600 a day, it said.
The study was based on a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which could happen in coming decades.
On Monday, global aviation experts agreed in Montreal to the first standards for cutting carbon dioxide emissions by aircraft in a deal that will take effect with new models in four years.
The International Air Transport Association has said there are many uncertainties about climate change and that past findings, for instance about extra turbulence linked to more greenhouse gases, have no impact on airline procedures.