The impact of non-stop flights

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Qantas, United, Qatar, Emirates and Singapore Airlines are all testing long-haul flights. Each of these airlines operates non-stop flights lasting more than seventeen hours. Other airlines are watching closely.

Will passengers accept 17-20 hour long flights?

Like cars, planes emit more emissions each time they take-off and land. Reducing the number of landings should reduce emissions so there is an environmental reason for flying point-to-point.

If they aren’t, governments and certain airports should also be watching with considerable interest and not a little concern? Why concern?  Because they have built enormous hub airports that rely on planes being unable to complete their routes without having to land to refuel.

Airports and governments in countries have jumped on the hub bandwagon to commission and construct new airports.  Hub airport are ones where either smaller airports feed their passengers into larger ones for onward flights or they are ones which are conveniently located between two destinations so that it makes sense for airlines to use them to refuel.

Heathrow, Schipol in Amsterdam, Charles de Gaulle in Paris and Frankfurt are examples where smaller feeder flights fly in to connect with long-haul ones. They will be probably won’t be as affected if airlines manage to fly longer point-to-point flights without the need to refuel.

But others like Istanbul in Turkey, Doha in Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Muscat in Oman in the Middle East could suffer. Other airports that could be affected could be PuDong in Shanghai, Beijing Capital International, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Bangkok in Thailand. Could all these operate profitably just on domestic passengers flying internationally and with incoming passengers who are visiting their countries rather than transiting?

How would governments and airports react if point-to-point flying became the norm?

One such answer might be to reduce the amount the airlines are charged to land. There is some thought in aviation circles that Chinese airlines are low cost ones since they regularly appear on the comparison websites as offering the cheapest fares, that is if are flying from London. Take a flight from London to Sydney travelling tomorrow. It is £641 on China Eastern with the nearest being United Airlines at about £690 and then nothing until about £840.

Wait a week and a flight is below £450 (again it is via a Chinese city) on China Eastern and below £550 on both China Southern and Air China. United is once again at about £690 and the next best fare is probably Cathay Pacific at around the £775 mark. That’s a considerable difference so budget minded travellers may well opt for a hub flight rather than a point-to-point one. And if anyone says that flying via a Chinese airport involves a long transit time depends what you call long. Next week, for £443 a transit lasts 3 hours 45 minutes going out and 5 hours 55 minutes coming back. Given punctuality and navigating huge airports this amount of time is just about tolerable.

The future for ever-expanding airports might be altering but it all comes down to us, the passenger. Would we be happy flying for about 20 hours non-stop?

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