Wi-Fi on long range a game changer?

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34south
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Wi-Fi on long range a game changer?

Unread post by 34south »

Would daylight flights (north-south) become popular when reliable, fast Wi-Fi becomes commonplace? Stay productive & in touch with clients & office while inflight. Then you have a beer when you land in London before getting a good nights sleep, not having being woken by the seatbelt light disco, or the person next door climbing over you to pee for the fourth time.

Plus, the airline gets return trip utility out of the airframe every 24 hours, like on the east-west flights. Probably more suitable for O&D routes though.
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Re: Wi-Fi on long range a game changer?

Unread post by evanb »

34south wrote: Thu Mar 09, 2023 8:23 pm Would daylight flights (north-south) become popular when reliable, fast Wi-Fi becomes commonplace? Stay productive & in touch with clients & office while inflight. Then you have a beer when you land in London before getting a good nights sleep, not having being woken by the seatbelt light disco, or the person next door climbing over you to pee for the fourth time.

Plus, the airline gets return trip utility out of the airframe every 24 hours, like on the east-west flights. Probably more suitable for O&D routes though.
Overnight north-south flights (presumably you're referring to Europe-SA here) are not purely due to them being popular (or at least more popular) amongst passengers. There are a number of other strategic, operational, network and economic reasons, so I suspect it'll take a lot more than faster or more reliable wifi.

The primary reason for overnight flights though are network effects. Almost all legacy airlines on Europe-SA routes rely on connecting traffic at one or both ends, to differing extents. For example, while most traffic on BA flights to/from JNB may be London centric, they are also feeding connecting traffic to/from the rest of the UK. Additionally, they have huge traffic flows to/from North America and to a lesser extent Europe. On the SA side, while traffic may be JNB and CPT centric, they do have substantial domestic and regional connecting traffic. Overnight flights give them the largest number of connecting options and limit risks. Moving flights to a daytime flight either way may limit connections since arriving into LHR, JNB or CPT in the late afternoon or early evening really limits connecting options.

When one looks at KL who do run daytime flights on the southbound, they are not looking to connect much traffic onwards from JNB and CPT since they arrive after 10pm. This rate arrival in JNB and CPT is limited itself by the departure time at AMS that is timed to accept large amounts of connecting traffic from North America and Europe. Furthermore, KL have relatively dense cabins compared to BA, meaning the relative revenue/yield strategies between the operations are different. KL are willing to trade-off yield in the broader operation but need to keep aircraft utilisation high in order to match costs more closely than revenue. So an entirely different operational strategy.

What we have seen is that when BA have added additional seasonal capacity (e.g. LGW-CPT) they have often run one of the legs as a daytime flight. This may be more viable since this capacity is in additional to their large overnight capacity that can support the network traffic. Additionally, with KL recently adding a second daily flight to CPT (3x weekly) they are operating a reverse schedule, overnight to CPT and daytime to AMS. In this way, they now offer daytime and overnight in both directions.

Might there be more daytime options in either or both directions going forward? Possibly, although I doubt it'll become commonplace and certainly not due to wifi. It's really about operational and strategy issues, and airline networks. Incumbent business models are entrenched, and may be for good reason. While we will continue to see evolution of this around the edges, I doubt there will be a big strategic shift in this anytime soon.
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Re: Wi-Fi on long range a game changer?

Unread post by Snitch »

Would there not also be a huge payload hit on a Europe/UK bound flight out of JHB on a hot summers day ?
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Re: Wi-Fi on long range a game changer?

Unread post by evanb »

Snitch wrote: Wed Mar 15, 2023 11:39 pm Would there not also be a huge payload hit on a Europe/UK bound flight out of JHB on a hot summers day ?
It's all part of the calculus and historically northbound overnight ex-JNB was always preferable due to payloads hits due to daytime temperatures, especially in the summer. The incremental improvements in aircraft performance over the years has reduced the payload hits significantly with both absolute and relative differences between RTOW and MTOW. Furthermore, JNB-Europe flights are often operated well within the TOW limits and in many cases they are not leaving anything or much behind, so differences between a daytime and nighttime RTOW may not actually impact revenue payloads.

Let's take an example of an A350-900 with MTOW 283t. At 5700ft AMSL with 4421m of runway, one can lift about 275t at 15C. At 30C, it's about 270t. So a hot day versus a cool night you're loosing about 5t, which isn't huge, but given a JNB-Europe flight is well within the envelop of an A350-900 it's probably not resulting in leaving anything behind. A typical OEW of 142t plus 31t for humans and bags, 72t fuel and a generous 20t of cargo brings TOW to 264t (these are very much thumb suck estimates - all very generous). Ultimately, the A350-900 can carry 110t of fuel, so 72t (which is a very generous estimate in itself) is well within the flight envelope.

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