Ultra Long-Haul Flights: Will They Return After COVID-19

Ultra Long-Haul Flights: Will They Return After COVID-19

Aviation has changed since the cold war’s end. This was when the Russian air space opened for foreign airliners. The opening allowed Asia and the US to land there.

At its start, the connection was made up of transpolar routes. But over time, continental airlines were able to go from the New York to Hong Kong.

This was by 2001, where the New York to Hong Kong flights was 8400 miles in distance.

Non-stop flights gained popularity for the 10 years that followed – until the past few years.

Loss in Popularity

That form of flight would lose popularity soon after. Ultra-long haul flights would be looked down upon. This was due to the financial crisis at the start of the previous decade which cut business expenses.

The same crisis caused a lack of demand on the general consumer level. In fact, crisis levels were so high that Singapore Airlines stopped their route from New York to Singapore (even though that route was a major seller).

That popularity would be regained in following years, especially in a more suitable manner.

It wasn’t even experimental for many airline companies. By its first year, the Perth city to London route was a major success. The occupancy rate was 94% with only 4 cancellations!

But What About the Impacts of COVID-19?

The longest flight in 2020 were from Newark to Singapore. But oddly enough, Singapore broke their record later in 2020 after that 8000 miles flight.

Singapore achieved that after replacing the Newark route with JFK temporarily (that Newark route was restored in late 2020).

Expert Opinion on the Pandemic’s Effects

Linus Benjamin is the founder of the Bauer Aviation Advisory firm.

He sees that the years prior Covid-19, many technological upgrades were put into effect. Those technological upgrades and the high demand on connecting between families and firms made ultra-long hauls popular.

Mr. Linus also sees that ultra-long hauls are important. Those flights are not only an efficient option for busy travelers, but they also provide a comfortable experience onboard.

In essence, he sees that the human factor should define airline services – not the pandemic.

But what kind of changes are necessary?

Mr. Bauer sees that point-to-point flights should be more effective. Proper airplane models should be popularized, with the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 being great options (being small and efficient).

He adds that the 10 longest routes only use 4 types of planes and are served by only 11 airlines. Regardless, the vital point here isn’t the advanced technology powered by those airlines. Mr. Bauer sees that customer experience comes first.

We like to agree with that opinion. Long hauls come with an expensive price tag, and the consumer should be made to feel that. For that reason, airlines operating their services should plan their deployment more thoroughly.

Airlines should dedicate more space for business and premium economy seats. This’ll establish ultra-long hauls as a premium service.

How Do Most Airlines Provide That Option?

Most of the worlds’ longest flights take that direction of service. However, the Emirate flights take a more traditional turn. 80% of The Emirates airlines are geared to budget passengers.

Alternatively, United flights choose less capacity with 50% of the seats for economy. The rest of the seats are between business class and premium.

Singapore airlines brought back the Newark route in 2018. On that same year Singapore airlines gave up on their economy seats. Even though they use the same plane for the San Francisco route the passengers are less. Most of the passengers are business class or cheaper.

Reconfiguring Their Premium Seat Layout

Experts like Mr. Bauer see that Covid-19 will improve business long term. Passengers may try to avoid crowded airports and transportation areas.

Point to point flights will be more efficient too, this resulting from the constant restrictions on international flights.

There’s the likelihood that air bubbles will be established between key points. Key target locations may include Australia to USA and USA to Singapore. This will allow airlines to easily cross countries that may have tight air traffic restrictions.

Basically, ultra-long haul flights are a necessity. While expensive, they’ve always been a favored option, and they should resurge again post COVID-19.

What do you think?


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