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Beware of A320 "non-stop" transcons - added fuel stop makes it a 27 hour odyssey

Beware of A320 "non-stop" transcons - added fuel stop makes it a 27 hour odyssey

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Old Jan 11, 17, 2:16 am
  #16  
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Originally Posted by mikeecix View Post
Any thoughts on this or of any experience on this route? Thanks.
When is your planned travel?

This sort of problem crops up every winter with the headwinds forcing the fuel stops. It happens to other airlines, too, though B6 is more exposed with only the A320 on most of the transcon routes.

The winds are generally worst in January/February, FWIW, with no guarantee that they'll be bad on any particular day.
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Old Jan 11, 17, 4:35 am
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Planning on Feb 8th 1930 dep. Flight diverted into PHX again last night and ended up getting into LAX at 0125.

Don't think it's worth the risk in Feb bearing in mind the weather could be just as bad as this month. Going to pay the extra and fly AA.

As has been mentioned previously, it's very misleading to advertise a service as non-stop when there is a clear trend over time that the aircraft used is not suitable. If it only happened on the odd occasion, I could understand but having the aircraft needing to divert due to strong headwinds let alone bad weather at destination is not good planning. Goodness knows how they make money on this route with all the diversion costs but maybe it's still profitable. It's a quick way of alienating your customers though :-(

Thank goodness for Flyertalk and FlightAware ...without a quick check on this forum and a look at the stats on FA, I would have booked last night and been none the wiser.

-Mikee-
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Old Jan 11, 17, 4:37 am
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I thought BOS-SFO had gone fully Mint?

Originally Posted by Chantier View Post
This is a constant problem for A320 flights in the winter. Here's JFK-OAK, for instance:http://flightaware.com/live/flight/J...118Z/KJFK/KABQ

In my experience they update the flight status to "diverted" about 2 hours prior to departure. Given the nonchalance of people working at most B6 outstations (and hubs too for that matter), not surprised to hear OP's story. I personally switch to an A321 transcon immediately after a diversion posts (i.e. from A320 JFK-OAK to A321 JFK-SFO); I've never seen an A321 require a fuel stop.

Many of these A320 flights have low load factors and still have to make a fuel stop. I suspect this occurs on the older A320s with less powerful engines, but would love to hear from the experts on this. All of the A321s were delivered in the past 3 years so have the newer engines.
It doesn't have to do with engine power, but the way they are configured. That DirecTV system is very, very heavy and creates range problems, as does the fact that B6 has provisioning for a center fuel tank that didn't deliver range as promised, making their A320s some of the heaviest - thus shortest ranged - in the world.

As for the A321-200, those aircraft actually have longer range than the A320, because they can be equipped with a range positive center fuel tank.

Originally Posted by formeraa View Post
The A320 was not originally designed as a transcon range aircraft. It was more of a replacement for older Boeing 727's (mid-con range). So, for the older A320s, transcon is a stretch. The newer ones should be able to make it most of the time, but not always.

When the A320neo comes out, it will make transcons much more reliable. The newer A321s and the A321neo are much more reliable transcon aircraft. However, I must say that Boeing 757s NEVER had this problem. Too bad that Boeing never thought of updating the 757 -- they have lost a ton of sales to Airbus.
That is really not true. The A320-200 has always had US transcon range, which is why United ordered them over 737s and why Boeing made the 737NG. The issue is on the very longest runs, which BOS-SFO certainly qualifies as, during the heavy winds in winter. I was once on a BOS-SFO on United, thankfully a 757-200, that took 6h59m. That is not a normal thing, and would have knocked down a full non-700 737 or non-A319 Airbus.

Originally Posted by Super80Fan View Post
That's because unfortunately Boeing became too self absorbed for their own good.
Yes. The jetBlue order was a massive mistake for Boeing.

Originally Posted by owflyer View Post
B6 went from 162 --> 156 --> 150 seats in an attempt to reduce weight (increase range) and ultimately to go from 4 required FA to 3 @ 1/50 seats.

B6 though lacking ovens and other legacy galley equipment was always "heavy" as a result of IFE hardware and above average loads.

Their move to go back to 162 seats will only increase tech stops on their legacy 320's WB in the winter.
Range and selling seats with lots of legroom were the goals there.
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Old Jan 11, 17, 9:33 am
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Clearing up some technical mis-conceptions....

Originally Posted by 330 View Post
The keyword here is the MTOW (Maximum Takeoff Weight).
To explain it simple, the A320 family has different options.
Some of these include additional tanks and some have a higher or a lower MTOW.
Most of the older A320s have a lower MTOW than some of these new shiny A320-200(Sl).

Back in the days at Spanair (JK) they had the first heavy A321-200 (which were scrapped later due to their condition) with some additional fuel tanks and flew from the canaries to Norway, the baltics etc. and the scheduled flight time was sometimes up to 7:05h or so which was a really long route, especially considering back in the days the Atari didn't had the shiny Sharkys...
Hi all, let me briefly introduce myself; I am a Captain on the A320 and 321 for JetBlue based in Boston. I need to point out that I am not authorized to comment on behalf of the company but wanted to address some of the technical points about the A320 and A321 made in this thread.

First and foremost, to the OP, my personal apologies for our company dropping the ball. Tech Stops and mechanicals happen, but it sounds like our Customer Service recovery was sub-par. I do hope you've reached out directly and receive a substantive response.

A few points made by other posters, which are close but not entirely accurate. My apologies in advance, I don't currently have the time to multi-quote...

1). To the poster theorizing about engine thrust being a difference in older versus later aircraft, it's not a factor. All of our A320s, from the oldest to the last delivery with sharklets, have the same IAE V2527-A5 engines. A321s have V2533-A5 engines to account for their higher Maximum Takeoff Weights. (The basic IAE engine is the V2500. The suffixes after the 25xx account for the thrust ratings at TOGA thrust; so a V2527 engine produces 27000 pounds of thrust, while a V2533 produces 33000 pounds).

2). The provision for Additional Center Tanks in the A320s was an experiment that only involved about 15 of the aircraft. It was unsuccessful primarily due to center-of-gravity issues. Those 15-ish aircraft have correspondingly higher maximum take off weights, with the ACTs removed and deactivated, so there is no reduction in their respective ability to take off with full fuel loads.

3). The reason that A321 transcons are more reliable is that every Mint aircraft has been delivered with 2 ACTs, which provide roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes extra endurance. (The A321s don't experience the center of gravity issues with ACTs which the A320s did). Core A321s (not typically used for transcons, but I have seen them on JFK-LAS) have 1 additional center tank.

4). Regarding the eventual switch from 150 to 162 seats, keep in mind that the 162 seats will be the product currently installed in the A321s, which is between 1-3 generations newer than the current A320 seats. As a pilot group we raised the concern about increased Tech Stops with the company. We have been told that the new seats and new generation of Live TV are light enough compared to what's being replaced that even with the additional 1200 pounds of passenger weight the aircraft will be somewhat lighter.

My experience is that the A320 is perfectly adequate for transcons 97 percent of the time, which is of scant consolation when you are caught in the 3 percent of failures. With a full fuel load, the airplane's endurance is roughly 7 and a half to 8 hours, depending on whether or not sharklets are installed; this is typically perfectly adequate for a 6 to 6.5 hour flight. The overriding issue this week is not the headwinds as much as the horrendous weather in the NorCal area, which has caused the need for alternate airports much farther away from SFO and SJC than normal. (For example, for SFO our alternate is SJC or OAK more often than not, which only require an additional 10 minutes or so of fuel to reach after a missed approach. The farther away from your intended destination the alternate is, the more fuel which you cannot correspondingly plan to use enroute).

I hope this information helps clear up a bit of the confusion. I again need to stress that I'm speaking only from my own professional experience and knowledge base, and not as an official mouthpiece for JetBlue Airways. I mostly lurk with 3 small children at home, but will attempt to return to the thread fairly regularly if there are further questions about the aircraft.

Last edited by Aewanabe; Jan 11, 17 at 9:57 am
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Old Jan 11, 17, 9:57 am
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A long Standing Problem

About ten years ago flying BOS-Long Beach and we had the same issue. No warning about a need for a refuel until the doors were closed. Then to top it off, no pun intended, we refueled in SLC which had just opened after a large snow storm. A quick 30 minute refuel became 2 hours before we had a clear slot to take off. Jet Blue may advertise more non-stops than anyone from Logan but in the winter months it is truly caveat emptor. They are quick to cancel with snow and will not cross book on any other airlines when they have massive premature cancellations.

In short, I won't fly them under any circumstances in the winter. Their reputation has been sullied too much for my wallet. Their loss and now a lowly Silver at Delta for years and much happier.
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Old Jan 11, 17, 10:12 am
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Rule #1: NEVER EVER FLY A320 TCON IN WINTER!
Rule #2: Don't forget rule #1.

Last edited by Dieuwer; Jan 11, 17 at 10:27 am Reason: Clarification
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Old Jan 11, 17, 10:16 am
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Originally Posted by Aewanabe View Post
Hi all, let me briefly introduce myself; I am a Captain on the A320 and 321 for JetBlue based in Boston. I need to point out that I am not authorized to comment on behalf of the company but wanted to address some of the technical points about the A320 and A321 made in this thread.

First and foremost, to the OP, my personal apologies for our company dropping the ball. Tech Stops and mechanicals happen, but it sounds like our Customer Service recovery was sub-par. I do hope you've reached out directly and receive a substantive response.

A few points made by other posters, which are close but not entirely accurate. My apologies in advance, I don't currently have the time to multi-quote...

1). To the poster theorizing about engine thrust being a difference in older versus later aircraft, it's not a factor. All of our A320s, from the oldest to the last delivery with sharklets, have the same IAE V2527-A5 engines. A321s have V2533-A5 engines to account for their higher Maximum Takeoff Weights. (The basic IAE engine is the V2500. The suffixes after the 25xx account for the thrust ratings at TOGA thrust; so a V2527 engine produces 27000 pounds of thrust, while a V2533 produces 33000 pounds).

2). The provision for Additional Center Tanks in the A320s was an experiment that only involved about 15 of the aircraft. It was unsuccessful primarily due to center-of-gravity issues. Those 15-ish aircraft have correspondingly higher maximum take off weights, with the ACTs removed and deactivated, so there is no reduction in their respective ability to take off with full fuel loads.

3). The reason that A321 transcons are more reliable is that every Mint aircraft has been delivered with 2 ACTs, which provide roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes extra endurance. (The A321s don't experience the center of gravity issues with ACTs which the A320s did). Core A321s (not typically used for transcons, but I have seen them on JFK-LAS) have 1 additional center tank.

4). Regarding the eventual switch from 150 to 162 seats, keep in mind that the 162 seats will be the product currently installed in the A321s, which is between 1-3 generations newer than the current A320 seats. As a pilot group we raised the concern about increased Tech Stops with the company. We have been told that the new seats and new generation of Live TV are light enough compared to what's being replaced that even with the additional 1200 pounds of passenger weight the aircraft will be somewhat lighter.

My experience is that the A320 is perfectly adequate for transcons 97 percent of the time, which is of scant consolation when you are caught in the 3 percent of failures. With a full fuel load, the airplane's endurance is roughly 7 and a half to 8 hours, depending on whether or not sharklets are installed; this is typically perfectly adequate for a 6 to 6.5 hour flight. The overriding issue this week is not the headwinds as much as the horrendous weather in the NorCal area, which has caused the need for alternate airports much farther away from SFO and SJC than normal. (For example, for SFO our alternate is SJC or OAK more often than not, which only require an additional 10 minutes or so of fuel to reach after a missed approach. The farther away from your intended destination the alternate is, the more fuel which you cannot correspondingly plan to use enroute).

I hope this information helps clear up a bit of the confusion. I again need to stress that I'm speaking only from my own professional experience and knowledge base, and not as an official mouthpiece for JetBlue Airways. I mostly lurk with 3 small children at home, but will attempt to return to the thread fairly regularly if there are further questions about the aircraft.
Thanks for your very informative response.

I wonder with A320NEO scheduled to join service at some point this year, if they could be put on these transcon routes by then.

Dieuwer, I think you mean don't fly A320 tcon in winter. There is a thread in a.net about VX having the same issue.
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Old Jan 11, 17, 11:37 am
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Originally Posted by Aewanabe View Post
First and foremost, to the OP, my personal apologies for our company dropping the ball. Tech Stops and mechanicals happen, but it sounds like our Customer Service recovery was sub-par. I do hope you've reached out directly and receive a substantive response.
Thanks for the kind words Aewanabe, although of course, no apology is necessary as you were not responsible for the customer service recovery. I did reach out, and while I feel the financial compensation offered to all passengers was reasonable, the response to my concerns was boilerplate and definitely neither substantive nor satisfying.


Originally Posted by Aewanabe View Post
My experience is that the A320 is perfectly adequate for transcons 97 percent of the time, which is of scant consolation when you are caught in the 3 percent of failures. With a full fuel load, the airplane's endurance is roughly 7 and a half to 8 hours, depending on whether or not sharklets are installed; this is typically perfectly adequate for a 6 to 6.5 hour flight. The overriding issue this week is not the headwinds as much as the horrendous weather in the NorCal area, which has caused the need for alternate airports much farther away from SFO and SJC than normal. (For example, for SFO our alternate is SJC or OAK more often than not, which only require an additional 10 minutes or so of fuel to reach after a missed approach. The farther away from your intended destination the alternate is, the more fuel which you cannot correspondingly plan to use enroute).
I am an instrument rated private pilot, so I totally appreciate the effects of both headwinds and finding appropriate alternates in determining effective range. One question - on days when you do need a fuel stop on these routes, how far in advance of scheduled departure does it usually become clear to sysops or you as Captain that a diversion and fuel stop will be required?
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Old Jan 11, 17, 12:57 pm
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Originally Posted by tphuang View Post
Thanks for your very informative response.

I wonder with A320NEO scheduled to join service at some point this year, if they could be put on these transcon routes by then.

Dieuwer, I think you mean don't fly A320 tcon in winter. There is a thread in a.net about VX having the same issue.
tphuang, you're welcome. I believe we don't start taking deliveries of A320 NEOs until 2020; currently all of our 2017 deliveries are A321s with the IAE engines. Our first NEOs are actually scheduled to be A321s in 2018. The NEO models should definitely improve transcon performance, though. Sharklets also make a significant difference for transcons, unfortunately of our 130 A320s only 12 or 13 currently have them. (All of the N8xxJB series birds, plus 2 or 3 of the N7xxJB aircraft).
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Old Jan 11, 17, 1:08 pm
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Originally Posted by outer marker View Post
Thanks for the kind words Aewanabe, although of course, no apology is necessary as you were not responsible for the customer service recovery. I did reach out, and while I feel the financial compensation offered to all passengers was reasonable, the response to my concerns was boilerplate and definitely neither substantive nor satisfying.
I'm glad to hear that the compensation was reasonable, and disappointed to hear that the response was boilerplate and non-substantive!


Originally Posted by outer marker View Post
I am an instrument rated private pilot, so I totally appreciate the effects of both headwinds and finding appropriate alternates in determining effective range. One question - on days when you do need a fuel stop on these routes, how far in advance of scheduled departure does it usually become clear to sysops or you as Captain that a diversion and fuel stop will be required?
My experience has varied; I've been fortunate in 5 years of flying the plane as both FO and Captain to only have experienced 3 Tech Stops. Of those, 2 we knew about before departure, and one developed enroute when our planned fuel upon arrival became less than our comfort level as a crew.

Our Sysops department and dispatch usually begin generating a flight release 1.5-2 hours prior to departure, and it typically is available to me 60-90 minutes prior to takeoff. That is the earliest we would typically know for certain the tech stop will be needed.

Working as a team we will use different try strategies to avoid the stop such as "capping" the passenger load to reduce takeoff weight (i.e, the flight is booked to 140 revenue customers with 10 NRSAs listed, we may take anywhere from 0- all 10 of the NRSAs in that scenario), or exploring whether a non-normal route will result in less fuel burn.

The reason capping the load can help (which you probably already know, but it's not as apparent in a light aircraft) is that the heavier the jet is the more fuel it burns enroute. IOW if performance is marginal, I can take off with completely full fuel tanks with either 140 or 150 people, but the weight difference of those extra ten people may increase the fuel burn enough to require a stop, where at 140 people on board we may not have needed it.
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Old Jan 11, 17, 3:04 pm
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Great posts, Aewanabe, thanks for chiming in.

One minor correction, perhaps. The extra 12 seats (150 --> 162) plus passengers will probably weight much more than a total of 1200 additional pounds.
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Old Jan 11, 17, 4:31 pm
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Originally Posted by Out of my Element View Post
Great posts, Aewanabe, thanks for chiming in.

One minor correction, perhaps. The extra 12 seats (150 --> 162) plus passengers will probably weight much more than a total of 1200 additional pounds.
The new seats will definitely be lighter than the current ones, though. There might be some other cabin improvements (ie lighter materials) that will be installed together with the new seats.
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Old Jan 11, 17, 7:43 pm
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Out of my element, you would think so, intuitively. That was a concern we raised with the company when the reconfiguration was announced. They assured us that in addition to the seats themselves being quite a bit lighter, that the system components for Live TV version 4 also save quite a bit of weight versus Live TV version 2 (which is in the current A320 seats/cabins).

A bit of napkin math shows how it might work, though:

For 150 seats we have 50 groups of 3 seats each installed in the cabin; for 162 the respective number will be 54. Let's say for argument's sake the current seating blocks weigh 120 lbs each including the LTV hardware, and that the new seating blocks weigh in at 90 lbs each. 50*120= 6000 lbs, whereas 54*90= 4860 lbs. We use a standard weight per passenger of 195 lbs as well. So, 35,250 lbs for passengers plus seats in the current configuration, versus 36,660 for the passengers, seats, and fourth flight attendant in the reconfigured jets.

Assuming my guesstimate on the seat weight is right (and I know it's close, but don't have the figures readily available), that equals a difference of 1410 pounds for the revenue potential of 12 extra customers per flight. If none of the extra seats are sold the difference actually changes to the aircraft being lighter than before the reconfiguration. That is before any changes to other cabin fittings are made, or sharklets are added to the equation. (We have received mixed messages about whether sharklets are going to be added concurrently with the cabin mods). The improvement in fuel burn on a transcon with a sharklet airplane is, coincidentally, nearly identical to my guesstimate of the weight difference if we actually fill the airplane with 162 customers.
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Old Jan 11, 17, 9:17 pm
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Originally Posted by Aewanabe View Post
Out of my element, you would think so, intuitively. That was a concern we raised with the company when the reconfiguration was announced. They assured us that in addition to the seats themselves being quite a bit lighter, that the system components for Live TV version 4 also save quite a bit of weight versus Live TV version 2 (which is in the current A320 seats/cabins).

A bit of napkin math shows how it might work, though:

For 150 seats we have 50 groups of 3 seats each installed in the cabin; for 162 the respective number will be 54. Let's say for argument's sake the current seating blocks weigh 120 lbs each including the LTV hardware, and that the new seating blocks weigh in at 90 lbs each. 50*120= 6000 lbs, whereas 54*90= 4860 lbs. We use a standard weight per passenger of 195 lbs as well. So, 35,250 lbs for passengers plus seats in the current configuration, versus 36,660 for the passengers, seats, and fourth flight attendant in the reconfigured jets.

Assuming my guesstimate on the seat weight is right (and I know it's close, but don't have the figures readily available), that equals a difference of 1410 pounds for the revenue potential of 12 extra customers per flight. If none of the extra seats are sold the difference actually changes to the aircraft being lighter than before the reconfiguration. That is before any changes to other cabin fittings are made, or sharklets are added to the equation. (We have received mixed messages about whether sharklets are going to be added concurrently with the cabin mods). The improvement in fuel burn on a transcon with a sharklet airplane is, coincidentally, nearly identical to my guesstimate of the weight difference if we actually fill the airplane with 162 customers.
I don't know if you would know, but are they scheduling N804JB+ to fly these longer transcon routes or do they just schedule in any A320?
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Old Jan 12, 17, 5:22 am
  #30  
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Originally Posted by Aewanabe View Post
Let's say for argument's sake the current seating blocks weigh 120 lbs each including the LTV hardware, and that the new seating blocks weigh in at 90 lbs each.
This is the key. The new seats and IFE hardware really are that might lighter on board, even with the larger screens. The evolution on that front has been amazing in recent years.
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