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3 Reasons Why The Airbus A220 Makes Sense for Southwest Airlines



Although there has been a lot of craziness this year, my 2020 bingo card certainly didn’t have “Southwest Airlines Considering Ordering Airbus Aircraft” on it. Southwest has operated exclusively Boeing 737 aircraft for decades, and no one has ever expected them to alter course. The airline has been banking on the Boeing 737MAX series as the replacement for their fleet of 737NG aircraft.

But that idea may be changing.

Southwest Considering the Airbus A220-300

The third-quarter earnings call for Southwest produced an interesting tidbit from their CEO and COO: the airline may consider adding the Airbus A220-300 to the fleet. For an airline that has made a point of sticking to a single aircraft type, this is quite a surprise. The C-suite elaborated on the potential move, adding that this may be the most ideal time to consider switching aircraft types, mainly because the need for new aircraft is not imminent, like it was.

The fact of the matter is that the Boeing 737MAX7 and Airbus A220-300 both meet the potential need Southwest has for the 140-150 seat market. Southwest operates their aircraft with a single class of service. The 737-700 offers 143 economy seats. The Airbus A220-300 configured in a 1-class layout would likely be able to accommodate more than this, with SWISS and Air Baltic’s A220-300s each having 145 seats. The larger variant of Airbus’ newest jet easily meets Southwest’s need, at least from a seating perspective.

It seems crazy, though, for Southwest to move away from the Boeing 737. However, the more I think about it, the more merit the idea has. I can certainly see a scenario where Southwest operates a fleet of Boeing 737MAX8 and Airbus A220-300 aircraft in the future. Here are three reasons why I consider the Airbus A220-300 a better choice for Southwest than Boeing’s newest variant.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia user RomainC28, used under CC-BY-4.0 license.

The A220 Offers Better Fuel Economy

Given how competitive the airline industry is these days, aircraft fuel economy is a major concern for airlines. Typically, you want the aircraft with the best fuel efficiency per seat. There are a lot of factors that go into determining the best aircraft for a route, however, as passenger demand, distance, and even airport altitude can be part of the equation.

The fact of the matter is that the A220 outperforms the Boeing 737MAX7 significantly for flights of 750 miles or less. We’re talking nearly 20% fuel savings per seat. The difference between the A220-300 and the 737MAX8 is much less, but the Airbus still wins.

For longer flights of up to 1,150 miles, the A220-300 is still the winner. The aircraft can certainly fly much further, even across the country if needed. But it would be a great option for Southwest on shorter flights.

Cabin Arrangement and Comfort

Southwest’s unique free-for-all boarding process is something people seem to either love or hate. Window and aisle seats get picked up the quickest, leaving middles for the poor souls who have high B or C boarding numbers.

An upside to operating the Airbus A220 is that is offers a 2-3 cabin layout, resulting in far fewer middle seats. This would be a major plus to the overall passenger experience, as both single travelers and travelers with a companion will prefer the pairs of seats.

I’d absolutely pick a 2-3 cabin layout over a 3-3 Boeing 737 layout, pretty much everything else being equal. And given that pretty much everything else is equal with Southwest, the A220 is a better choice from a passenger perspective.

Security in the Event of Crisis

Having all your eggs in one basket is great. Until it’s not. With the 737MAX crisis barely in the rear view mirror (or maybe not…after this year it feels like ancient history), there are certainly reasons why you might want to expand beyond a single aircraft type. If there are significant issues, a large portion of your fleet could be grounded. This would be disastrous for an airline.

The benefits for maintenance and operations that come by operating only one type of plane are numerous. But there is the potential that they could come back to bite you. Having two aircraft types in the fleet would still provide streamlined operations, but it would hedge against disaster should even more issues crop up with Boeing’s newest 737.

We are talking years in the future, however. By then I hope all issues are thoroughly worked out of the 737MAX. I still won’t be hopping on one anytime soon, and I generally have great faith in the safety of air travel.

Boarding a Southwest 737 at SMF.

Final Thoughts

The Boeing 737MAX7 and the Airbus A220-300 have nearly the same seat capacity, which is the most important factor for filling out Southwest’s needs. The decision will come down to whether Southwest wants to depart from its single-variant fleet model, which has been a core part of its strategy for a long time. There are some upsides to bringing in the A220, but the change to the unified fleet composition is the primary drawback. There are lots of reasons to keep a single aircraft type, from maintenance to pilot and flight attendant training, to even ground operations. It would also be harder to swap aircraft, if needed, for a particular flight. Moving away from the Boeing 737 airframe would be a huge decision for Southwest.

Fortunately, the airline has years to decide. Travel won’t be returning to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon, and Southwest has no need for new aircraft at the moment.

Personally, I do hope the carrier decides to pull the trigger on the Airbus A220-300. I’ve flown the A220 only once (the -100 variant), and it was a sweet ride. Sure, this was with Delta, which offers at-seat power and IFE screens on this aircraft. It would be cool to see Southwest pull in a new aircraft type after all these years. But I have a feeling they will stay the course with Boeing. But one can still hope!

H/T: One Mile at a Time

Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia user Steve Lynes, cropped and used under CC-BY-2.0 license. 

By: Family Flys Free
Title: 3 Reasons Why The Airbus A220 Makes Sense for Southwest Airlines
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Published Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2020 14:08:09 +0000

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What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?




People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
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Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?




The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
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Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?




There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.

Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
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Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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