In recent months, transatlantic Continental Airlines flights using Boeing 757 aircraft between North America and Europe have been forced to take unexpected stops for fuel upon encountering unusually strong headwinds while attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean, adding as much as two extra hours on return segments and increasing diversion rates.
Although United Airlines — the airline with which Continental Airlines has merged — is legally operating the Boeing 757 aircraft on transatlantic flights within their range of 4,000 nautical miles, it is just barely within that range — and that works when weather conditions are ideal, such as with a tail wind. As evidenced in recent months when weather has not been ideal — such as with unusually strong headwinds — the Boeing 757 does not work and therefore may need to land unexpectedly to refuel.
How would you like to be on what is touted as a non-stop flight, only to have the aircraft unexpectedly stop for fuel?
While United Airlines could be commended for taking fuel stops for the safety of its passengers, I have to wonder if the fuel stops — which can cost the airline thousands of dollars in landing fees — as well as compensation to unhappy passengers who missed connecting flights and providing passengers with overnight hotel accommodations are worth the savings of operating a Boeing 757 aircraft on its transatlantic routes instead of using an aircraft with longer range capabilities.
Additionally, it is difficult to quantify how many customers opted for being passengers on competing airlines using aircraft with longer range capabilities on similar routes, resulting in lost revenue and possible damaged loyalty to United Airlines and Continental Airlines.
Then again, some FlyerTalk members extol the virtues of the use of Boeing 757 aircraft for transatlantic flights, citing such reasons as its in-flight entertainment system, significantly quicker boarding and deplaning of passengers, and significantly faster baggage handling.
Is it worth the gamble by the airline for the cost savings? What do you think?
In the meantime — for your listening pleasure — I present to you a Herman’s Hermits song whose title resonates with the sentiments of a number of FlyerTalk members regarding being a passenger on a transatlantic Continental Airlines flight using a Boeing 757 aircraft from Europe to North America while enduring strong headwinds: