Sunday 21 July 2019

This aircraft will change the way you think about transatlantic travel

Travel Insider

A321neo. Photo: Airbus
A321neo. Photo: Airbus
The Aer Lingus 747 that carried Pope John Paul II is shown with airline hostesses in a September 1979 file photo. Photo: Getty
Norwegian's 787-MAX featuring explorer Tom Crean as a 'tail fin hero'
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

When United waved goodbye to its final Boeing 747 this month, I felt a pang of nostalgia. Delta similarly retired the ‘Jumbo Jet’ last September, while BA will phase out its 747s by 2024.

The plane was an icon of my childhood, from Things That Go picture books to Pope John Paul II’s trip to Ireland in 1979. A big, beautiful airplane that seemed to defy physics; a bumblebee of aviation.

Well, things change. The 747, which debuted in 1969, has long since been surpassed by dashing Dreamliners and double-decker A380s.

But size isn’t everything.

A KLM Boeing 747-400 approaches St. Martin's Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM). Over 1,500 of the iconic aircraft have been built and delivered since 1966.
A KLM Boeing 747-400 approaches St. Martin's Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM). Over 1,500 of the iconic aircraft have been built and delivered since 1966.
A British Airways Concorde on a Christmas flight to Finland, December 24, 1987. Photo: Mohamed LOUNES/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
The first powered flight, made by Orville Wright on 17 December 1903 near Kill Devil Hill, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Wright can be seen lying on the lower wing of the 12 horse- power, chain-driven Flyer I. The flight lasted for about 12 seconds, covering a distance of 36.5 metres (120 feet) at an airspeed of 48 kilometres/ hour (30 miles/hour), a groundspeed of 10.9 kilometres/hour (6.8 miles/hour) and an altitude of 2.5-3.5 metres (8-12 feet). Photo: Getty Images/Science Photo Libra
An Aer Lingus Super Constellation, known as the Super Connie. The propeller-driven were built by Lockheed Corporation between 1943 and 1958 at Burbank, California.
The world's largest plane, Antonov An-225, which is paid a flying visit to Shannon Airport in 2015. Photo: Deposit
A Qantas A380 flies over Sydney, Australia
Foynes Flying Boat Museum: Home to the world's only replica B314 flying boat (produced from 1938-1941).
A Douglas DC-3. Photo: Getty
A Boeing 727 'trijet' with its distinctive third middle engine. Photo: Getty/Bettmann Archive
Iolar ('eagle'), the first Aer Lingus aircraft, a DH84 Dragon EI-ABI that flew from Baldonnel to Bristol on May 27, 1936.
Pictured with the Iolar at Bristol airport are Aer Lingus cabin crew Laura Mc Cabe and Catherine McDonnell, both wearing the very first Aer Lingus uniform worn by cabin crew in 1945. Photo: Dan Regan
Air Force One, the most iconic 747 of all?
Aeroflot's turboprop airliner IL-18. (Photo by Rykoff Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
A BOAC (British Overseas Airway Corporation) Vickers VC-10 photographed at London Heathrow. The narrow-body aircraft first flew in 1962. Photo: Ken Fielding/Wikimedia Commons.
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner takes off. The now-iconic aircraft first launched in 2007. Photo:
Chantilly- USA: A Boeing 307 Stratoliner Flying Cloud on Display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. The then-futuristic airliner first took to the skies in 1938.
A Fokker 100 at Aviodrome aerospace museum in the Netherlands. It was the largest jet airliner built by Fokker before its bankruptcy in 1996. Photo: Deposit
23rd January, 1975: A newer, longer Douglas DC9 takes off on its maiden flight. Photo: Alan Band/Keystone/Getty Images
A British Airways Concorde takes off from Heathrow airport in London, 2001. Photo: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
In 2014, Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary landed at Dublin airport with the first of Ryanair's new Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft from Seattle. The aircraft has become a staple for Irish travellers.

Today’s real game-changers are aircraft that don’t turn heads on the runway. They are the small workhorses of the future, and they’re starting to fly big routes.

Think of Norwegian’s narrow-body Boeing 737-MAX (pictured below), which took off from Cork, Shannon and Dublin on several transatlantic services this year. Or the Airbus A321LR, eight of which will join Aer Lingus after the model’s launch in 2019.

They may look similar to the planes that ply Aer Lingus’ short-haul network, but A321LRs will use 20pc less fuel and fly over 900km further. In fact, the aircraft (pictured top) “will have the longest range of any single-aisle jetliner’’, Airbus claims, opening up “thinner” direct-route possibilities that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. Charlotte, Detroit or Milwaukee, anyone?

Of course, you’re still going to see growing numbers of wide-body A330s and 777s taking off from Ireland (not forgetting Qatar and Ethiopian’s 787 Dreamliners).

Big planes are necessary for popular routes, pricey airports and longer distances such as the US West Coast. But you can expect more and more 737 MAX and A321LRs to slot in as complements,  rounding out these expanding fleets.

Norwegian 737-8-MAX_Tom-Crean-Hi-Res.jpg
Norwegian's 787-MAX featuring explorer Tom Crean as a 'tail fin hero'

Having state-of-the-art, 200-seater aircraft running alongside larger Airbus A330s on east and northwestern US routes will be “a terrific enabler”, as Aer Lingus CEO Stephen Kavanagh put it during the announcement of the airline’s latest transatlantic route, a new Dublin-Seattle service due in May 2018.

Aer Lingus hasn’t released any seating plans for the coming A321LRs, but it’s likely to operate both economy and business classes (Norwegian and WOW, which also flies to several North American cities via Reykjavík, both use single-class configurations).

Granted, spending several hours crammed into single-aisle planes doesn’t sound like much of a futuristic utopia. But fuel savings, lower prices and better-designed interiors are hard to argue against.

I’ll still get wistful when I see a 747 on the tarmac, but these newer, smaller kids on the block are transforming the way we think about transatlantic travel.

Read more:

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