Last updated: 04:00 PM ET, Tue March 22 2016

Are Long-Haul Layovers History?

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | March 22, 2016

Are Long-Haul Layovers History?

Photo courtesy of Airbus

Hate layovers tacked onto already lengthy flights? Ultra-long-haul craft like the Airbus A350 XWB and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner could make them a thing of the past.

Some airlines are building new route strategies based on these long-range capabilities. For example, United Airlines is focusing on expanding its presence in Asia. The airline will begin flights from San Francisco to Singapore on June 1 using 787s.

READ MORE: Middle Eastern Airlines Spar for World’s Longest Route

New aircraft make more direct flights possible

In the past, many routes to destinations in Southeast Asia like Singapore included stops in Tokyo or Hong Kong. The new planes make it possible and, more importantly, cost effective to operate direct flights to destinations that previously required two or more legs. United says that several new routes to China (Hangzhou, Chengdu and Xian) were also enabled by the extended range and fuel efficiency of the 787.

United currently has more capacity than any other airline in the trans-Pacific marketplace. Its fleet of 787s will continue to make the development of other long haul routes possible.

Other airlines' long haul ambitions

One of United competitors on U.S.-Asia routes, Singapore Airlines, has just ordered a number of Airbus A350 XWBs. This new plane will allow the airline to offer ultra-long-haul service from Singapore to Newark. The carrier flew this route using Airbus A340s until 2013. The flight was discontinued because the A340, though it had enough range, was a four engine aircraft that used too much fuel. Gas costs made the route unprofitable.

Finnair, which has carved out a niche for itself on ultra-long-haul routes, is using the newest A350 models as well. The Helsinki-based carrier is already flying to Hong Kong with the XWBs, and it has announced plans to start using the new aircraft on routes to the United States. 

Qatar Airways, well known for its long haul ambitions, was the first airline in the world to take delivery of the newest A350 model. Vietnam Airlines, a carrier that is looking to expand its overseas reach as it runs into stiff competition on the domestic market, was the second to get the new Airbus in its hangars.

Direct flights could mean less competition

Another advantage of offering direct long haul flights is that it will allow smaller carriers to compete without having to fly to major international hubs like Tokyo Narita, where major airlines already have a large presence. Instead they could offer direct service from their home country to far flung destinations with little or no competition.

READ MORE: Airbus Gauging Interest in New High Capacity A350

Fliers can hope that this new crop of aircraft will eventually bring about the end of the layover by making it possible for many routes to be served by direct flights. This already appears to be happening on some routes.


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