(Bloomberg) -- Flying is back — but US jet fuel demand isn’t. 

More Americans are flying than before the pandemic, based on the number of passengers going through government security checkpoints at US airports so far this year. But jet fuel demand is still about 11% lower than the same period in 2019, according to Energy Information Administration data. The culprit: less international travel and more fuel-efficient planes that are often packed with more passengers.

That echoes what’s happening in road travel, where efficiency gains have stalled gasoline usage even as US drivers log more miles. While the trends are helping limit the biggest source of US greenhouse gas emissions, they’re hitting fuelmakers with reduced demand amid the already-challenging transition to sustainable energy. A recovery in jet fuel consumption that spurs global oil demand growth also is a key factor in bets that crude prices will rally this year. 

Airplanes are more fuel efficient today than they were in 2019 due to changes in aircraft design, materials and flight optimization, said Marli Collier, a spokesperson for industry group Airlines for America. More seat miles per gallon means the decline in fuel use is roughly twice as steep as the drop in US flight capacity, said Linda Giesecke, head of demand analysis at consultancy ESAI. 

The other factor capping US jet fuel demand is the slow recovery of international travel, which uses the most fuel-intensive planes. Long-haul flights could return this summer, but the rebound will stay moderate, Giesecke said.

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