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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 12, 17, 8:40 am
  #31  
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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.
A Tommy Point to you for your helpful responses. Don't be a stranger!

Mike
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Old Jan 12, 17, 8:52 am
  #32  
 
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Thanks, Mike. Super80 fan, they do attempt to use the sharklet 320s on transcon routes, especially ex-BOS, but unfortunately it's not feasible for maintenance, aircraft utilization, and crew availability purposes to restrict them to those markets.
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Old Jan 12, 17, 10:16 am
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LOL on the Tommy Points. Wicked awesome reference!
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Old Jan 12, 17, 10:32 am
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Originally Posted by Aewanabe View Post
Thanks, Mike. Super80 fan, they do attempt to use the sharklet 320s on transcon routes, especially ex-BOS, but unfortunately it's not feasible for maintenance, aircraft utilization, and crew availability purposes to restrict them to those markets.
Do you know of any plans to put sharklet on more 320s or any other changes that may alleviate this problem? Seems like unless they put A321 on these routes, there will be problems like this every winter going forward.
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Old Jan 12, 17, 10:52 am
  #35  
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While the fuel stops are a low probability event over the course of the whole year, they seem to be a high probability event when a weather pattern of high headwinds and poor Bay Area weather sets in. For example, the BOS-SJC flight #471 has been diverted 6 days in a row (to either DEN, SLC, or LAS). Even if you don't count the 27 hour journey on 1/7 when they were stranded in DEN for about 20 hours, the other 5 days had an average arrival time of almost 3 hours after scheduled (178 minutes according to flightaware).

Once the seat count increases to 162 it becomes a bigger risk if all seats are filled, especially on non-sharklet A320's if I correctly understand the excellent info from Aewanabe. It would be great if JB capped the sellable inventory well below 162 for westbound long transcons during months when headwinds are most likely to be high (to keep weight down), with perhaps more inventory added a few days out if amendable jet stream and destination weather becomes more probable. I somehow doubt that is likely.

Last edited by outer marker; Jan 12, 17 at 10:57 am
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Old Jan 12, 17, 12:00 pm
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Originally Posted by outer marker View Post
While the fuel stops are a low probability event over the course of the whole year, they seem to be a high probability event when a weather pattern of high headwinds and poor Bay Area weather sets in. For example, the BOS-SJC flight #471 has been diverted 6 days in a row (to either DEN, SLC, or LAS). Even if you don't count the 27 hour journey on 1/7 when they were stranded in DEN for about 20 hours, the other 5 days had an average arrival time of almost 3 hours after scheduled (178 minutes according to flightaware).

Once the seat count increases to 162 it becomes a bigger risk if all seats are filled, especially on non-sharklet A320's if I correctly understand the excellent info from Aewanabe. It would be great if JB capped the sellable inventory well below 162 for westbound long transcons during months when headwinds are most likely to be high (to keep weight down), with perhaps more inventory added a few days out if amendable jet stream and destination weather becomes more probable. I somehow doubt that is likely.
This is my thought too. Throughout the course of the year it may end up as a reasonable percentage of diversions. But in the winter or over a week period with bad weather around the country the likelihood of a major delay skyrockets. There were diversions when the weather was perfectly fine in the bay area, so that's not it. Flying clear across the country in the winter, you are bound to encounter bad weather or have to reroute. How can I rely on an airline if there's a 50%+ chance of a major delay? BOS-SJC has diverted 7 of the past 10 flights.

I ended up finishing my trip to Boston, after switching my flight to the next night and flying out of SFO on an A321 instead of an A320. Good move too, because the BOS-SJC flight diverted again the next night (and again last night). If i wasn't as travel savy and did extra reserach/digging I would have had major disruption to my work and personal life without JetBlue doing anything to help.

The other thing that bothers me is how slow JetBlue is to update on the delays/diversions that it seems they fully know about. The past few days I've been watching the BOS-SJC flight and then the SJC-BOS redeye (BOS-SJC plane feeds the redeye). They'll update & delay the inbound, but not update the next flight. And when it does update, it's a completely unrealistic number. FlightAware will show the plane landing in SLC or DEN or somewhere to take on fuel, and also update the arrival time into SJC. The next SJC-BOS sometimes is updated to show it leaving exactly when the inbound plane is supposed to come in.
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Old Jan 12, 17, 4:11 pm
  #37  
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Thanks for all the information you've been providing Aewanabe.
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Old Jan 12, 17, 5:56 pm
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Originally Posted by Super80Fan View Post
Thanks for all the information you've been providing Aewanabe.
You're welcome all, and thanks for he kind words. Busy evening with the little ones, I'll have some more information about some of the follow-on comments/questions tomorrow.
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Old Jan 13, 17, 10:54 am
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Originally Posted by Super80Fan View Post
Thanks for all the information you've been providing Aewanabe.
Yes indeed, great stuff. I fly BOS<>SFO regularly, though it's typically been on UA. I started flying B6 again last year, but since I buy Mint fares to and from SFO, and those aircraft aren't affected, I've never had to deal with a fuel stop.

Pity they can't advertise that as another Mint benefit.
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Old Jan 13, 17, 9:34 pm
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Unhappy

Originally Posted by roknroll View Post
The other thing that bothers me is how slow JetBlue is to update on the delays/diversions that it seems they fully know about. The past few days I've been watching the BOS-SJC flight and then the SJC-BOS redeye (BOS-SJC plane feeds the redeye). They'll update & delay the inbound, but not update the next flight. And when it does update, it's a completely unrealistic number. FlightAware will show the plane landing in SLC or DEN or somewhere to take on fuel, and also update the arrival time into SJC. The next SJC-BOS sometimes is updated to show it leaving exactly when the inbound plane is supposed to come in.
roknroll, I can assure you that bothers us on the operational side of the airline too! It's something we've been complaining about for years; I fully admit I don't understand all the specifics, but for a delay to be posted it starts as a multi-step process with rather archaic aircraft-routing software from our Sysops in Long Island City. For whatever reason all of our IT platforms (JetBlue.com, the JetBlue app, Flight Information Display Screens) are dependent on that output to show properly updated departure times, and we've been told it's very difficult to get the aircraft-tracking program to properly "flow" or cascade delays out from when they initially occur.

I hope all that sheds some light on the 'how' our delay notification process works; it's not an excuse for a poor process and is an issue I hope to see us resolve soon.
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Old Jan 15, 17, 2:04 pm
  #41  
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Originally Posted by Aewanabe View Post
roknroll, I can assure you that bothers us on the operational side of the airline too! It's something we've been complaining about for years; I fully admit I don't understand all the specifics, but for a delay to be posted it starts as a multi-step process with rather archaic aircraft-routing software from our Sysops in Long Island City. For whatever reason all of our IT platforms (JetBlue.com, the JetBlue app, Flight Information Display Screens) are dependent on that output to show properly updated departure times, and we've been told it's very difficult to get the aircraft-tracking program to properly "flow" or cascade delays out from when they initially occur.

I hope all that sheds some light on the 'how' our delay notification process works; it's not an excuse for a poor process and is an issue I hope to see us resolve soon.
Nothing is more frustrating to me than when an airline fails to provide accurate or timely information. I know there will be weather delays, maintenance issues, crew time outs, etc. but I would like to be informed. With the right information, I can even generate my own service recovery options when the airline messes up their service recovery. Without correct and timely information, however, I am completely at the mercy of the airline - which as we have seen in the case of my daughter's flight, might not work out that well.

Clearly, Jet Blue's information flow could be improved. For example, I have been following BOS-SJC this past week, and on a couple of occasions flightaware was showing a diverted flight plan long before jetblue.com acknowledged the flight was diverted. This continued many hours into the flights, when for example, the flight was in the vicinity of DEN (it diverted to LAS that night).

Correct information is both the first line of JetBlue's customer bill of rights, and also is required by regulations (14 CFR 259.8 requires airlines to notify of delays, cancellations, and diversions within 30 minutes after the carrier becomes aware). But it is, of course, not a revenue item, so who knows how long it will take for the archaic systems Aewanabe mentions to be updated.
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Old Jan 15, 17, 6:05 pm
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My last JFK-OAK flight was on one of the oldest A320s and diverted to LAS (one of the only diversions that day last year). Extra annoying that on top of shifting their Bay area focus to SFO, even if the one flight a day (to OAK or SJC) works for your schedule, if you don't want to risk a diversion in winter you have to fly to SFO.

Of course then you have to worry about delays there but that's another story.
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Old Jan 17, 17, 7:41 am
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It's very frustrating for B6 loyalists. I like to think of B6 as better than other airlines, but it's this sort of shell game that makes loyalty hard to implement when one actually needs to get somewhere on time.
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Old Jan 18, 17, 9:18 pm
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Originally Posted by Buster CT1K View Post
It's very frustrating for B6 loyalists. I like to think of B6 as better than other airlines, but it's this sort of shell game that makes loyalty hard to implement when one actually needs to get somewhere on time.
These are still smaller issues. Just think, all the legacy airlines are adding basic economy class and WN will probably get rid of the free baggage check-in at some point. Just watch out for those east bound non-mint transccon flights in winter time.
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Old Jan 18, 17, 9:59 pm
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It's not just diversions that affect your travel. It also is how capable the airline is in providing solutions.
Case in point, I was supposed to fly AA DFW-BOS on Saturday 1/7 but the flight got cancelled due to the snowstorm in BOS. However, there was space on the BDL flight. I accepted and eventually got home a couple hours later than planned.

Had this been JetBlue, it might had costed me days to get home simply because JetBlue does not have the capacity to handle mass cancellations due to IRROPS.
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