New aircraft technology opens the door to new route opportunities

It may have been late to the market, but new widebodied aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and more recently the Airbus A350XWB have opened new avenues for the world’s airlines, allowing routes that were previously not possible or not economical now a serious and sustainable option for network planners.

Globally there are now over 350 routes operated with the 787, of which around one in six are entirely new routes. “New routes have opened up due to the 787’s right size and game-changing technology and economics; this has allowed airlines to open up services,” said Alex Heiter, Executive Director – Airline Network and Fleet Planning, Boeing Commercial Airplanes at last month’s World Routes Strategy Summit in Durban, South Africa.

The executive said the aircraft is delivering on the manufacturer’s promise of opening new markets and even developing new business models such as the low-fare, long-haul operations of Norwegian – a market he described as being only possible thanks to the “efficiency and great economics of the 787”.

In fact this week Alan Joyce, Chief Executive Officer, Qantas confirmed that such aircraft will enable it to open direct services from Australia to Europe for the first time by 2017, most likely with a new service from a European capital to the Western Australia capital, Perth the likely option.

Highlighting ‘network differentiation’ Heiter said at World Routes that airlines had become clever at differentiating their strategy in an increasingly competitive global market and new aircraft technologies have helped them achieve this and provide them with a competitive advantage.

“We have talked about for many years at Boeing this concept of network fragmentation and how airlines appeal to passenger preferences by offering more services to more cities non-stop and we are seeing the Boeing 787 doing just that,” he said, citing British Airways’ London – Austin and United’s San Francisco – Chengdu routes as perfect examples.

But this ‘value’ of new technology is not just limited to longer-range markets as the arrival of the next short-haul aircraft options in the form of the 737MAX and A320neo will also allow additional medium-haul routes to be served, including bringing efficient single-aisle transatlantic connectivity to the table for many smaller airports.

You can see more of what Alex Heiter had to say on this subject on this edited clip from his World Routes Strategy Summit panel discussion, below:

Alex Heiter, Executive Director – Airline Network and Fleet Planning, Boeing Commercial Airplanes
Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…