The Boeing 737, everything was fine until Boeing pushed it to the MAX. It’s one of the most recognizable aircraft and they have second to none reliability, over 10,000 have been produced over the models 50-year history, they are popular and even today you wouldn’t struggle to find one. But what about pushing them to their limits in order to meet lower demand?
Firstly, we are talking about the 737-800 here, not any of the other variants so please keep that in mind. As you all know because of this current virus no Texans are allowed to visit Australia, this also means that practically no one else is travelling either, not really the best thing in the world but better than getting attacked by crazy Texans. So let’s talk about why this could be considered. Lower passenger demand when international flights reopen is the reality, much like 9/11 this current storm will get people off air travel for a while and there will be lower numbers of people wanting to travel. So what’s the answer for airlines?
Well let’s take Qantas’s A380 for example, they won’t be getting filled up if you took them on trans pacific routes, even their 787’s and A330’s might be too big for the expected low demand for their routes like Sydney-San Fransisco or Brisbane-Honolulu. So here are the options, leave half the seats on these widebodies empty or fly full narrowbodies, as a passenger I’d obviously prefer the widebody but airlines may not want to fly fuel-thirsty half-empty jets halfway across the world. So what’s the other option?
Like I have mentioned the 737 is an extremely popular narrowbody aircraft, aircraft that fly transpacific such as United, Delta, Qantas, Virgin Australia, Fiji Airways and American Airlines all have this aircraft in their fleet and mainly fly them domestically. The 737-800 has a range of 5,436km, that’s bigger than the length of Luxemburg, it can carry up to 189 passengers in a single class configuration, so what does this mean for trans pacific flights. For example, let’s say Qantas wanted to fly their 737 from Sydney to Los Angeles, the flight would only take around 3hrs longer than a nonstop one and only have 2 refuelling stops at Faleolo and Honolulu, it would also allow Qantas to save on costs due to the full aircraft. The 737 is also smaller so it could land at smaller airstrips for refuelling than the 787 for example while also having the ability to drop passengers at two destinations on 1 flight (Honolulu and Los Angeles) while using codeshare agreements with American Airlines to pick up Honolulu passengers to make sure its a full flight the entire way. So are there any issues?
Yes, the 737 isn’t designed for the long haul (but it can do it) and with no crew rest areas that could present some issues, no lie flatbeds for a 15hr flight in business could become an issue as well as fuel availability at smaller airports, catering availability and crew availability. It may also depend on the 737’s EFTPOS rating.
So should the 737 fly long haul, probably not regularly but it could be done sometimes in order for airlines to actually break even. The reliable narrowbody isn’t meant for this but flying over the world’s biggest ocean is something it’s up for and you bet it will cross it. What do you think?
Big oceans, no problem image credit