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Bigger Planes for Shorter Routes?

Bigger Planes for Shorter Routes?
Jennifer Billock

The number of regional and domestic flight passengers is on the rise, expected to double in the next 20 years or so. With that, there needs to be a way for shorter routes to carry more people. Is it time to start using larger planes for shorter hauls?

Not that long ago, long-haul flights got shiny new equipment: bigger planes with more capacity for flying passengers. Now, though, the discussion is shifting to a different market – short-haul routes.

Skift reported recently that the latest numbers from Boeing show an increase in regional and domestic air passengers, expecting traffic on regional routes to double by 2036. And air traffic is already congested; flights between Sydney and Melbourne take off every ten minutes, and some Asian routes are even more crowded.

The jumbo jets used for intercontinental travel are too big, though, so Boeing recently proposed a new type of aircraft: the 797. With this plane, airlines expect to be able to carry between 225 and 275 passengers on shorter routes, and with a two-aisle configuration, turnaround time between flights will shrink as disembarkation speeds up.

It’s not a new idea, though, to use higher-capacity planes on shorter routes. Boeing already tried in the 1980s, and those planes were then left to collect dust as the 737 and A320 took over airspace. The issue here is that smaller planes are easier to fill—and the fuller a plane is, the more money the airline is making. Anything 70 percent or less of capacity is basically a waste of money.

But with increasing air traffic, the 797 may be a necessary reality for the shorter routes. Only time will tell.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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