Two aisles are better than one

A few months ago I posted a blog about how airlines could freshen up the cabins of their current-model Airbus and Boeing narrowbodies with new twin-aisle configurations.

Well, the concept of a twin-aisle narrowbody is back in the fray, but this time, for new-design aircraft.

Airlines – particularly some European airlines – are understood to be pressing Airbus and Boeing to include lightweight, twin-aisle narrowbodies in their narrowbody replacement plans.

Of course, it might take a while for Airbus and Boeing to define their narrowbody successors, since both airframers are considering re-engining the A320 and 737, respectively.

But maybe a twin-aisle narrowbody would be a more appropriate replacement for the Boeing 757 anyways.

Still, the push for a twin-aisle narrowbody intrigues.

And the intrigue doesn’t stop at airlines. Growing interest in the development of a new lightweight, twin-aisle narrowbody is among the factors driving Pratt & Whitney to ensure its PurePower geared turbofan (GTF) engine can provide as much as 40,000lb of thrust.

The GTF has already been selected by Bombardier to power the 110/130-seat CSeries and by Mitsubishi to power the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ). The CSeries will be powered with the 20,000lb-24,000lb thrust class PurePower PW1000G.
Yet, one of the reasons why Pratt & Whitney has “gone as high as 40,000lb of thrust is” that there are “airlines out there looking for a light twin”, P&W vice-president next generation product family Bob Saia told me yesterday during an exclusive interview in Dallas, where the engine manufacturer held a customer forum to exhibit some of its GTF hardware (I do have a regional aircraft manufacturing beat you know!) .

These airlines are interested in an aircraft with an “[Airbus] A320, A321 seating capacity, so 170 to 220 seating capacity” that offers a twin-aisle configuration, says Saia.

He adds: “The reason for the twin aisle was two-fold – cabin comfort, but another is can you turn the aircraft around faster in terms of boarding and de-boarding.”

To quote Pratt & Whitney’s tagline for its GTF – “This changes everything.” By golly, wouldn’t it just?

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13 Responses to Two aisles are better than one

  1. Dave February 26, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

    It’ll be a purely economic decision. First off, would a twin aisle gain sales that the particular airline would otherwise not get? Cabin comfort itself does not drive the decision, except for the additional seats sold, or seats lost if an airline decided to not choose an aircraft with twin aisles.

    Next, how much money would be saved in turnaround costs? Those extra revenues would have to be compared to the incremental additional fuel cost of flying a wider aircraft (18″ wider or so).

  2. Dave February 26, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    Pratt really has something with the GTF. So far it’s better than anything GE or Rolls has out there… maybe there will be a Pratt resurgence in the civilian market the way they are set to dominate the military one with the F-135.

  3. Dave February 26, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    Damn it! My imposter is back. Be gone false Dave.

  4. Jason March 1, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    This is a great idea. How would turn around be quicker? Have you ever noticed how much faster it is to disembark an ERJ with three seats per aisle than a 737 w/ six seats per aisle?

    In a 2-2-2 configuration, a narrowbody will turn around much quicker than a 3-3 configuration, plus there could be twice the overhead storage per passenger.

    I hope someone is smart enough to build it.

  5. NAB March 1, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    Can they configure a narrow-body w/ two isles so that it made business sense?

  6. frequent traveller March 2, 2010 at 4:45 am #

    In her blog “Enter the Twin Aisle Narrow-body” posted last December, RWG made public that a solution to this problem already has been projected : the COST-EFFICIENT and user friendly A320HQR, 737HQR or A320HP3 Series with a five-abreast twin aisle (1+3+1) or (1+2+2) cross-section. The 737 and A320 production lines are totally (!! thrice or more times) amortized, and may be turned quasi overnight into producing these enticing revamped cabin interior variants, which would prolongate the useful commercial product life of the 737 and A320 Series families. Boeing and Airbus could even decide to price these variants based on marginal costing to sell the aircraft 1/6th or 17 % cheaper, ie at same investment per seat for the Buyer as for the (3+3) six-abreast sister designs…

  7. Frequent Traveller March 2, 2010 at 7:43 am #

    Economic simulation models in current use by airline operators to test new business strategies are unable to take into account the true economic impact of a successful “Ronja Rövardotter jump” (cf “Moments of Truth” by Jan Carlzon), meaning : it would take the intuition and charisma of a visionary business Guru to dare the move from (3+3) seating to A320HP3 (1+2+2) or 737HQR (1+3+1) seating. However, you needn’t sell the concept to a Frequent Traveller : I’m totally convinced from the start! Imagine the set of juicy comparative stances available to the expert Media advertiser, starting with a row Excuse-Me Factor of only 1, against 6 for the (3+3) cross-section, or a pax density in the aisle at the arrival stand-up of only 2.5 (per 4,2 sq.ft), vs 6, more than twice as much. These differences are sellable, as is the feeling of freedom in the cabin, and will impact on average ticket yield as well as on cabin loadfactor !

  8. K. Walker March 2, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    Let’s not forget the door as a constraint! Or, the jet bridge. Or, the door to the jet bridge, for that matter. I’m not convinced a second aisle in a narrow-body will make economic sense in respect of turn-around if “down stream” factors impacting passenger flow-through are not streamlined as well.

  9. Frequent Traveller March 4, 2010 at 4:12 am #

    The (fwd and aft, RHS and LHS) Cabin Doors on e.g. A320 Series aircraft all measure 32″ x 73″; numerous and repeated operator and manufacturer surveys have established FINALLY that with these dimensions the cabin doors DO NOT impact at all on the Critical Path in the inflow or outflow of passengers. Only aisle jamming does. Conclusion : there is significant time to be saved with twin aisles vs single aisle.

  10. Frequent Traveller March 6, 2010 at 6:28 am #

    The point is relevant, yet airport planners dimension their bridges for multipurpose service, from Regional Jets up to Wide-Body aircraft (767, A330, 747…) and these people know their business. Now, the passenger fwd LHS entry/exit door on the A320 (resp. the 737) series aircraft measures 32″ x 73″ (resp. 34″ x 72″). With these generous dimensions, those doors wouldn’t be critical in boarding/deplaning flowpaths, would they ? Hopefully, significant time should be saved with twin aisle vs single aisle at ground rotations.

  11. Frequent Traveller March 8, 2010 at 5:54 am #

    For “Dave” (which one ?) : I can see many sources of additional revenue for the vanguard operator who’d dare to introduce e.g. the A320HP3 Series (1+2+2) or 737HQR Series (1+3+1) to compete with (3+3) standard aircraft : 1) extra revenue/pax from yield upshift (better product, clearly differentiated); 2) higher average cabin factor (from ditto, plus from smaller cabin plus from accomodation of more last minute passengers (from easier accessible cabin)); 3) additional flying hours/24h (from time saved at airport ground rotations); 4) additional cargo revenue (from extra container space freed (less pax luggage)); 5) new markets (extended range operations with reserve fuel in ACTs – Auxiliary Container Tanks); 6) lower leg costs [from less airport taxes (from lower MDTOW), from shorter leg duration (from time saved at ground rotations), less maintenance & fuel costs (from lighter aircraft)… You name it yourself, Dave, forget the seats thrown out ! If on top e.g. the A319HP3 is re-engined with the new GTF high-tech engines, plus with a consequential weight-saving programme, you’ll have an absolute winner !!

  12. Frequent Traveller March 14, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

    If P&W’s GTFs are going to be made available @ thrust ranges from 23,000 lbs upwards (P&W contend they’ll reach 40,000 lbs, right ?) then the GTFs could be applied (early in the programme !) to re-engining of Light-Weight versions of the A318/A319 HP3 or HQR five abreast twin aisle projects, whereby with the extra fuel economy on top of all the other advantages (quicker ground rotation, better ticket yields…) we’d end up with a SMC no worse than the SMC of their sister standard (3+3) designs : the result would be an Airbus-produced and early available “outsider” to run the race for the “small Feeder” market, ie a direct competitor to the CS Series, ERJ or MRJ, but with a more user-friendly cabin as cream-on-the-cake !

  13. Frequent Traveller March 24, 2010 at 4:56 am #

    Airline and manufacturer planners alike need to reckon with the emergent countdown for a BAN BY FAA/JAA(EASA) against installing triple seats squeezed against a wall panel in aircraft cabins. It is only a matter of time until FAA Rulemakers will say BASTA! : Gentlemen, from (deadline) onwards, triples/quadruples must be accessible from both ends, no seat shall be more than one off from an aisle ! When this happens, the HQR (1+3+1) concept is retrofittable, HP3 (1+2+2) probably not, or at a much higher cost. Planners need to anticipate or they’ll get caught the pants down ! The armwrestling between the Producer Lobby (Manufacturers-Operators) and the User Lobby (you and me, AFA, Airport Worker Unions and Safety Advisors) has started!