How The Airbus A330 Could Change Short-Haul Service as We Know It
Photo courtesy of Airbus
The latest version of the Airbus A330-300, dubbed the Regional, could point to changes for airlines’ domestic and regional strategies. Airbus first announced the airplane, which is lighter than standard A330s and “optimized” for regional and domestic markets, in 2013.
The first A330 Regional was recently delivered to Saudi Arabian Airlines. Airlines are looking to lower operations costs and raise the amount of revenue they can earn per seat, so the release of this new aircraft could not have been timed any better.
Trying to solve short-haul problems
When he first announced the A330 Regional, Airbus chief Fabrice Bregier touted the new design as the perfect solution to some of the air travel industry’s biggest issues. “Operators of the new A330-300 variant will benefit from a proven, mature and reliable aircraft that brings relief to limited airspace, airport congestion and pilot shortage.”
More importantly, for airlines that are trying desperately to improve their revenue figures, the A330 Regional offers lower operating costs and lots and lots of seats. A330s are typically used for mid-range or long-haul flights. The Regional version is much lighter than other incarnations. This means that it uses less fuel. The trade off is that it has a shorter range; it can remain in the air for approximately five hours. Best of all, from the airlines' perspective, the plane can seat as many as 400 passengers in standard configuration.
More seats for the busiest routes
For certain airlines on certain routes, this is an ideal equation. A 400-seat plane can replace two or three smaller planes on a busy route. Of course, 747s and A380s can hold that many passengers, but they are heavier and therefore more expensive to operate, so it is not practical to fly them on short routes.
In the U.S., for example, the aircraft would be a good fit for flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco or New York to Miami.
If the A330 Regional, or similar aircraft, is adopted by U.S.-based airlines, what can passengers expect? The new plane is certainly efficient, but airlines will still need to install as many seats as possible to create a favorable revenue-per-seat equation. So passengers shouldn’t expect this new airplane model to bring more comfort to short-haul flights. However, Airbus has promised seats with 18-inch width, so things probably won’t be any more cramped than they already are on the current crop of smaller short-haul jets.
Read More: Airbus’ Next Big Plane Hits Program Delay
On the positive side, the practice of using larger aircraft on shorter routes could help reduce airport congestion. Chicago O’Hare, somewhat notorious for its delays, is the starting point for some of the country’s busiest routes. Reducing the number of planes needed to serve these routes could hypothetically help cut down on takeoff queues and on the need to circle before landing.
Large short-range aircraft like the A330-300 Regional could be part of the solution for airlines suffering from revenue woes. If carriers embrace the idea of using fewer planes on shorter routes, passengers can still expect cramped seating, but they might not have to wait as long for their flight to take off.
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