Crossing the Atlantic in a 737?

The way things are going regional jets will soon be flying across the Atlantic.

Flyglobespan at the end of last week became the first carrier to use Boeing 737s in normal passenger configuration on a transatlantic route. The Scottish budget carrier has launched a daily Glasgow-Boston service with a Boeing 737-700 (see picture). The flight also stops at Knock in Ireland two days per week.
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Carriers such as Lufthansa and Swiss for several years have been using 737s in all-business class configurations to operate some transatlantic routes. But Flyglobespan has configured its new fleet of two transatlantic-capable 737-700s with 120 30-inch economy class seats. A pure no frill service is sold although passengers can pay for a premium upgrade that entitles them to a pre-assigned seat, complimentary food and beverages and a larger baggage allowance.

Earlier this year Air Canada became the first carrier to use A320 family aircraft in normal passenger configuration. At the beginning of April it launched a daily Halifax-London Heathrow service using 120-seat A319s in two-class configuration. Again carriers previously only used A319s on transatlantic routes in all-business class configuration, including Italy’s Eurofly.

While the size of the aircraft crossing the Atlantic have steadily become smaller, before this year no carrier with an economy class product has gone smaller than a 757. Continental began using 757s across the Atlantic in 1997 and several carriers – including American Airlines, US Airways and most recently Northwest Airlines – have since followed. To read more about the use of 757s on transatlantic routes read my feature in our June issue on the North Atlantic market.

The trend of flying smaller aircraft across the Atlantic actually began a few decades ago when TWA raised eyebrows by using 767s instead of 747s on some transatlantic routes. US carriers have since stopped operating 747s across the Atlantic entirely although several European carriers still do.

Narrowbodies have become increasingly popular for transatlantic missions at US carriers and the planned extended-range version of the Embraer 170 regional jet will give airlines yet another transatlantic option. The new E-170AR will have enough range for some of the shortest transatlantic crossings, including St John’s-London.

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