Airplane travel is getting more expensive, and one of the reasons is the rising cost of the fuel. If you're American Airlines, one apparently viable option is to burn 22,000 gallons of fuel to fly five passengers from Chicago to London. A trip like that can't be good for AA's business, and it certainly isn't good for the earth.
The incident happened in early February following the cancellation of one of AA's regular Chicago-London flights. Somehow, American workers were able to rebook everyone from the canceled flight. Except for five people, who were then put into business class and sent across the pond. Were travel vouchers and some free lunch coupons not good enough for these five folks? Sheesh. What I don't understand is, if you're adding a flight to the schedule, why not get all those rebooked travelers on board?
The plane used was a Boeing 777, which Wikipedia says can carry between 283 and 368 passengers. THe environmental group Friends of the Earth called the trip an "obscene waste of fuel," which I doubt anyone can disagree with. 22,000 gallons for five people? C'mon.
UPDATE: The Huffington Post story where I read about this incident forgot to include this information: the airplane needed to be in London anyway, in order to fly passengers to the U.S. I'm familiar enough with the airline industry to know that sometimes planes need to be moved to where they're needed even without passengers. It's a wasteful, but necessary, part of the business. The HuffPo made it sound like AA sent the five people over just because. An AA spokesperson told the Telegraph that this was not the case here. The HuffPo didn't mention this, and so I didn't either. My bad.