The global aviation panorama is undoubtedly changing at a relatively fast pace. Events happening over the last few months, such as Airbus stopping A380 production by 2021 and the recent launch of the extra-long range version of the Airbus A321 at the recent Paris Air Show, have highlighted a shift towards optimization of resources with the use of more fuel-efficient aircraft that enable airlines to effectively serve their networks and help them expand to more destinations.
The Launch of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner
In order to trace how the industry has been leaning towards efficiency optimization with the use of more fuel-efficient and versatile aircraft, we have to have a look at the key impact of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in global air travel patterns. Despite all of its headaches since its delivery to its launch customer Air Nippon Airways in 2011, the aircraft has created significant opportunities for airlines to exploit new markets and move away from the traditional hub-and-spoke network, towards an increasingly point-to-point structure.
This is because, for the first time in commercial aviation, composite materials were largely used in a commercial aircraft structure, with its single-barrel composite fuselage, along with the use of composite materials in the wings and other parts of its structure. This does not only making the Dreamliner lighter and more fuel-efficient but helps reduce maintenance costs and material fatigue.
In this way, the aircraft has been an enabler for airlines to effectively serve long and ultra-long-haul destinations without the need for transit at an intermediary hub. If looking at the ten longest routes across the world, four were created or reestablished thanks to improved capabilities of new generation aircraft and three are operated by the Dreamliner, including the first nonstop link between the U.K. and Australia since 1946.
According to Forbes, the Dreamliner in just six years has opened more than 40 nonstop routes that were not previously covered. With new-generation aircraft such as the 787, offering a range of approximately 220 to 300 seats depending on configuration, airlines are able able to efficiently connect far apart destinations with better fuel economics, only previously reachable by higher capacity and less fuel-efficient aircraft.
From Australia and New Zealand, the Dreamliner has been key in opening new markets across the Pacific. On one hand, Chilean carrier LATAM has been crossing the ocean daily between its base in Santiago and Sydney via Auckland with the type since 2014, a route previously operated by its aging and inefficient A340-300s. Exploiting opportunities brought by increasing demand potential between Australia and South America, the airline launched non-stop flights between Santiago and Melbourne with the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in 2017.
On the other hand, fellow Oneworld alliance partner Qantas flies nonstop between Santiago and Sydney with its quad engine Boeing 747-400s four times per week. With the Australian flag carrier set to retire the Queen of the Skies in the next eighteen months, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the carrier’s Dreamliners crossing the Pacific down to Chile soon.
Air New Zealand, additionally, flies between Auckland and Buenos Aires five times per week since 2015. The route began operating with a Boeing 777-200 and switched to a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in 2016, which helped the airline better manage capacity and add an extra weekly frequency.
Although the route is now back to a Triple Seven due to the airline being severely affected by the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engine issues, it should eventually go back to Dreamliner once affected aircraft go back to service. Additionally, the New Zealand flag carrier has ordered eight longer Boeing 787-10s with options for 20 additional aircraft.
Other than its range and fuel efficiency capabilities, the 787 delivers something else that airlines are increasingly looking for: commonality, flexibility and versatility. With three different variants offering different capacities under the same type, airlines are able to reduce operational costs and increase efficiencies by aligning aircraft schedules to destination demand and easily being able to send aircraft to where they are more profitable.
The Dash 8 seats approximately 230 passengers in a 3 class layout, the Dash 9 Boeing approximately 270 and the Dash 10 approximately 330 in the same class configuration.
As aircraft have the same type rating, this simplifies crew scheduling and reducing training and maintaining costs. Drawing back to the same Latin American carrier, LATAM changes operating variants based on predicted demand. For example, the same flight between Santiago and Madrid can be operated by a mix of Dash 8s and Dash 9s as demand requires since the airline operates both types…