Take offs & Landings
New narrow-body aircraft designed for but will comfort be compromised?
Oceans of Choice – New narrowbody jets are set for trans-Atlantic service. Plus new route news
Forty-five years ago, when Pan Am’s Boeing 747 appeared on the London-NewYork route, passengers believed air travel could only get better. Back in 1970, airlines and aircraft manufacturers proclaimed it was the era of the wide-body jet. Larger aircraft such as the 747, DC-10 and Lockheed Tri-Star would replace narrow-bodies like the 707, DC-8 and VC-10. Passengers taking long-distance flights could look forward to a roomier, more comfortable and smoother flying experience.
However, as we have seen so many times before over the last 100 years, when it comes to aviation nothing is set in stone. Although wide-body jets enabled the airlines to provide passengers with a superior experience, they were a mixed blessing in a competitive market.
In the distant past, larger aircraft enabled the airlines to get away with offering passengers fewer flights. It was good news for the carriers (because they could control capacity), the airports (because they had room for expansion) and the environment. However, it wasn’t good news for passengers. Not only was there less choice, but fewer flights also meant higher load factors, which in turn pushed up prices.
That unhealthy situation existed for a couple of decades after the 747’s arrival because regulations at the time restricted choice. But in today’s liberalized and ever-more competitive market, passengers demand a range of options.
This is where the narrow-body aircraft have come into their own. Cheaper to operate, they also have fewer seats so are easier to fill. It means they are a flexible option for newcomer carriers.
The 747 and its ilk reigned supreme across the Atlantic for a good number of years. Until Continental decided to start serving a number of secondary destinations from NewYork using two-class, narrowbodied 757s – aircraft more at home on 500-mile flights within Europe than on 3,500-mile trans-Atlantic marathons.
These 757s used by Continental (now part of United) were fitted with extra fuel tanks, allowing them to fly greater distances, and their smaller cabins made them easier to fill on less busy routes to the UK, mainland Europe and Scandinavia. More recently, American Airlines has emulated Continental with 757 services to various secondary airports.
Passengers now had a choice. If they wanted a comfortable wide-body experience, then they flew from a major airport. But if they wanted to travel from