Thursday, March 29, 2018

Auckland to Chicago non-stop

Air New Zealand has announced that it will fly non-stop from Auckland to Chicago, and from Chicago to Auckland, three days a week. The cost is about the same as a flight with a stopover (usually Los Angeles or San Francisco), however, the flight is 15 to 17 hours. That’s a long flight. Still, it IS direct.

Long as this flight is, the Qatar Airlines flight from Doha to Auckland is the longest in the world, and Qantas’ brand new non-stop flight from Perth to London is longer, too [see reactions to the first flight]. Qantas flight is the first direct flight connecting Europe to Australasia, and Air New Zealand’s will be the first to connect Australasia and the middle of the USA.

This is not the end, of course. Qantas is planning a non-stop flight from Sydney to New York, and there will be more. Part of the whole point of Boeing’s Dreamliner is that it has extremely long range: VERY long flights are possible.

Back in the 1990s, I joined Boeing’s “World Design Team” which was, mostly, a brilliant way to build enthusiasm for the project, but which also asked people for their input into the new plane (which at the time was not yet named; Dreamliner wasn’t my first choice, to be honest, though I’ve long since forgotten what was).

Back then, they asked us about what we wanted (more legroom), and whether we wanted longer non-stop flights or faster flights (I wanted faster). Theoretically, a sub-orbital flight could fly much faster and arrive much sooner than a conventional flight, though there are difficulties. But the Dreamliner, capable of flying farther and using less fuel that older aircraft (like the 747s), would be cheaper to run than a suborbital plane, so that’s what we got.

Will it work? I think eventually it will, but I’ve seen no evidence that there’s a huge demand for VERY long haul flights at the moment, but maybe there will be in time. After all, seven decades ago, the “Kangaroo Route” took passengers seven flights and four days to fly between Australia and London, and people used it. However, 15-17 hours is a VERY long time to be cooped up in a flying tube, maybe too long for most people right now.

I have to admit, the ability to never set foot in LAX again is a HUGE attraction of the direct flight, but, even so, I don’t know I could stand it. I’d rather a shorter flight, a stay of a few days, then flying on to Chicago. The bigger truth, though, is that I’d much rather not fly anywhere near that long—not even long enough to fly to the USA. Flights to Australia are about all I can handle these days.

So, I’m probably not the target market for these new flights, and that means I may never get the chance to fly on a Dreamliner that I “helped” to “design”. I think I can live with that.

I have not received compensation of any kind for this post.

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