Re: Long-distance direct flights

Date:         31 Mar 2001 16:43:17 
From:         robinjohnson@bigfoot.com (Robin Johnson)
Organization: North Antarctica
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On 27 Mar 2001 16:05:16 , Janne Salonen <jesalone@leka.hut.fi> told
us:

>Boeing's thesis is that A380-sized aircraft do not have sufficient market,
>relying on megahubs and connecting feeder flights, and that direct traffic
>between city pairs using smaller average aircraft size (B777, A330-A340)
>is going to win market share.
>Charter traffic really is for package tours and the like, seldom for
>regular traffic, although more frequently unsold seats are being
>offered on flight-only basis.
>Regular traffic requires sufficient demand to fill planes several times a
>week, scheduled destinations with only one or two departures a week are
>seldom commercially viable. For example Finnair has canceled such
>destinations (Osaka, San Francisco, Toronto). People flying from San
>Francisco to Helsinki aren't going to wait around many days for the next
>scheduled direct flight, they take the first one to Europe and change.
>
>So, up to a point, Boeing can be right with its thesis of traffic moving
>away from trunk routes, but on the other hand these will also remain,
>because the traffic from, say, Helsinki to Denver will always be too
>sparse to warrant a direct connection. On intercontinental or long
>transcontinental routes, smaller than 250-300 seat aircraft are unlikely
>to be competitive, and demand insufficient to fill such aircraft several
>times a week is likely to use trunk lines and interconnecting feeders.

Helsinki is one of the smaller hub cities:  but I can see it being
developed further in the oneWorld context for traffic from the East to
Western Europe, and for traffic from the West to Eastern Europe/CIS/
and possibly Middle East, as London gets more congested than ever.
An efficient smaller long-range aircraft would be useful.  The MD-11s
have a limited life.  The 777 is really too big for the missions I
have in mind.  Perhaps the revitalised 767-200ER can be a possible
answer for Finnair.  The home market is insufficient, as you indicate,
for frequent operation to most US/Canadian centres.  What are the main
centres of the Finnish diaspora?

>Another important factor, especially on destinations between Europe and
>Asia, and I suspect between the US and Asia as well, is freight traffic,
>which generates a fair bit of revenue for the airlines operating these
>routes. A big part of the reason why Asian carriers have been ordering
>A380's is the much-increased cargo capacity it offers compared with any
>other airliner, and there is also interest in cargo versions of the
>aircraft. And a cargo version of Boeing's 747X seems to be the closest to
>market.

I haven't seen any Boeing 747-400 Long Range being sold yet, other
than QF's 6.  Both that and the passenger A380 address the problem
current long-range aircraft have of the payload restrictions at
today's everyday stage-lengths.
>
>It seems that A380s will have a market, although it might take some while
>until Airbus sells enough planes to cover development costs.

Boeing had a long period after the introduction of the 747 before it
was showing a profit.

>Perhaps it wouldn't be surprising if Boeing at some point tries to leapfrog
>A380 and offers a still bigger plane.

Within the limits of airport size and weight restrictions, of course.
The 80-m _box_ is becoming the standard for size, which rather limits
the _flying-wing_ shape.

>One interesting alternative could in time be provided by airships, once
>they can establish themselves. They should be able to offer much more
>comfortable but slower flights than turbojets, and be more fuel
>economical.

I think this will e a very specialised market.  Slower means less
trips to amortise the capital expenditure over, and while this might
make a very pleasant way to travel, there would be huge crew
expenditure for multiple crews, particularly with the level of
personal service desirable on a long trip.

>Janne Salonen
>Helsinki, Finland

Thanks for your comments!
-Robin Johnson