A second financial issue is that of hedging oil and fuel purchases, which are usually second only to labor in its relative cost to the company. However, with the current high fuel prices it has become the largest cost to an airline. Legacy airlines, compared with new entrants, have been hit harder by rising fuel prices partly due to the running of older, less fuel efficient aircraft. While hedging instruments can be expensive, they can easily pay for themselves many times over in periods of increasing fuel costs, such as in the 2000–2005 period.
Other factors, such as surface transport facilities and onward connections, will also affect the relative appeal of different airports and some long distance flights may need to operate from the one with the longest runway. For example, LaGuardia Airport is the preferred airport for most of Manhattan due to its proximity, while long-distance routes must use John F. Kennedy International Airport's longer runways.
Operating costs for US major airlines are primarily aircraft operating expense including jet fuel, aircraft maintenance, depreciation and aircrew for 44%, servicing expense for 29% (traffic 11%, passenger 11% and aircraft 7%), 14% for reservations and sales and 13% for overheads (administration 6% and advertising 2%). An average US major Boeing 757-200 flies 1,252 mi (2,015 km) stages 11.3 block hours per day and costs $2,550 per block hour : $923 of ownership, $590 of maintenance, $548 of fuel and $489 of crew; or $13.34 per 186 seats per block hour. For a Boeing 737-500, a low-cost carrier like Southwest have lower operating costs at $1,526 than a full service one like United at $2,974, and higher productivity with 399,746 ASM per day against 264,284, resulting in a unit cost of 0.38 $cts/ASM against 1.13 $cts/ASM.
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