In a recent article about Vietnam Airlines, I asked about whether it was efficient to use longhaul aircraft on routes to Australia.

20 replies

StudiodeKadent

Member since 20 May 2015

Total posts 109

In a recent article about Vietnam Airlines, I asked about whether it was efficient to use longhaul aircraft on routes to Australia.

Multiple answers were given (see here: http://www.ausbt.com.au/vietnam-airlines-daily-dreamliner-flights-to-sydney-melbourne ) and basically I was told that the efficiency gains of new technology etc. greatly outweigh the slight inefficiency of using a recent longhaul jet on a medium-haul route. At least that was the impression I got.

Is my summary correct? Is using a 787-9 still cheaper, even on shortish trips (i.e. trips between 5 and 10 hours), than using an A330-200? Let us presume that we can fill the plane of course, even though the 787-9 is a bit bigger than the A330-200.

kimshep

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 11 Oct 2014

Total posts 336

A couple of things to bear in mind. The current block time for VN (SYD-HCM) is 12 hrs 45 min according to their schedule so this is outside your stated 5-10 hrs assumption. Also, without knowing absolute load factors for VN, it may be that they are choosing to 'right-size' the route. They are currently using a B777-200 and replacing it with a B787-9 may be more appropriate in respect of their sales and this can affect RASM / CASM and route revenue.

kimshep

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 11 Oct 2014

Total posts 336

Also, the B787 family are lighter, highly cost-effcient and far more versatile than their aluminium counterparts.

I would not necessarily be worried for VN. There are quite a number of surprisingly short routes that the B787 operates on. Think AA using them on DFW-ORD, ANA on HND-ITO, QR operates B787-8's on Doha-Dubai which is only 377 klms and has a block time of 65mins, ET and ArkeFly.

StudiodeKadent

Member since 20 May 2015

Total posts 109

Kimshep,

Thanks! Does the block time include taxi/takeoff/landing? Because the flight is shorter than the flight to HKG distance-wise and that flight takes 8-9 hours. Does your time figure also take into account the time difference between the cities?

I totally understand the need to "right size" the route. I presume that the basic operating cost (over time/distance) of a 787-9 is substantially below that of a 777-200, so VN end up saving money even though the jet has a lot more range capability.

The use of Dreamliners on short-haul routes certainly has puzzled me a little. So what you're saying is that even on medium-haul routes or even 3 hour routes, its still substantially cheaper (at least on a per-seat basis) to operate than 767s or even current gen narrowbodies (including all the costs required to add multiple widebody services to reach the same capacity), right?

Basically you'd say that I am greatly overestimating the "minimum efficient range" of the 787s, right?

kimshep

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 11 Oct 2014

Total posts 336

1. Block time includes 'gate to gate;

2. "Basically you'd say that I am greatly overestimating the "minimum efficient range" of the 787s, right?"

Not at all, StudiodeKadent. What I am saying is that there is no 'hard and fast' rule as to what aircraft an airline chooses on an appropriate route, even between competitors on the same route. But there are 'guidelines'. While what may be best for the consumer, airlines rarely make such choices for this as a reason. There are a whole raft of reasons the choice of frame may be made including:

- frequency or aggregation operating mode ie: CX vs QF on SYD-HKG or SQ vs QF on SYD-SIN

- hub to hub / spoke vs Point to Point (P2P) operation

- positioning criteria

- available fleet type & owned vs lease

- passenger vs freight demand / revenue

- load factor(s) vs marketing / sales effort

- competitor product or response

- route economics / revenue model

- airline strategy ie: QR & recent seasonal SYD A380 decision

- sophisticated market demands vs less sophisticated markets

In VN's case, it will be interesting to look down the road in 2 years time to see whether they upguage the SYD service to one of their new A350's which in terms of seat-count and prestige may better align with the B777 seat count? I suspect that this may not happen.

As said, there's a myriad of considerations taken into account for flying a particular type. Also, you'll see (below) my screen capture from the VN website showing the 12hr 45min sector. Curiously, on HCM(SGN)-SYD the flight time is shown as 8 hrs+.

GregXL - you need to click on the '+' box on VN's timetable page to get the elapsed flight time.

StudiodeKadent

Member since 20 May 2015

Total posts 109

Kimshep,

Thank you very much. I see what you mean. There absolutely may be factors which outweigh the fuel efficiency. I believe on the comments at the story, another member stated that A330s are only more efficient at short distances (3000 to 4000km)... That's very interesting. Cargo, of course, could easily make up the difference since the 787-9 can carry a lot more than an A330-200 (and even a little more than an A330-300)... but I wouldn't know for sure since I don't know QF's cargo demands.

It leads me to wonder whether QF will use the Dreamliner as an A330-200 replacement on shorter haul, transcontinental and trans-tasman or South Pacific routes. I've actually been speculating for some time they may be looking into A321neos or 737-9s and stocking them with widebody-grade product to use on Transcon/Trans-Tasman/South Pacific/etc. services. It would allow more consistency in passenger experience for any specific route whilst also being more flexible in terms of frequency/capacity and more suitable for point-to-point operations.

Either way, thanks for pointing out how there are all the other issues in the mix besides appropriate range etc. The info is useful.

kimshep

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 11 Oct 2014

Total posts 336

A little bit off the original topic but [QF and B787] has been a 'moving' target ever since Qantas placed its original order.

First, we had the prospect of QF placing the largest order ever for B787's ostensibly to replace the B767's on domestic routes and for 'new' international routes, as well as Jetstar international fleet replacement and routes to Western Europe ie: ATH, FCO etc. The financial back-slide of QF and the GFC saw the demise of all of that and a complete restructure of investment in capital equipment, which resulted in frame cancellations galore. Additionally, Boeing played no small part in the delayed delivery schedule for the B787 (or L8T-liner).

Then, the tie-up with EK impacted route planning as well. Add to that, the JV with AA Additionally, the death of the mining boom has completely re-written the transcontinental local market with the restructure of east-west flying patterns in the past 12 months. So, the plans for the B787-8 / B787-9 and proposed B787-10 have become 'dancing' goalposts for QF.

Jetstar (which was originally slated to take -8's and then trade them off to -9's .. transferring the -8's to QF for domestic) has now received all it's -8's. The capex reduction for the QF Group may see that original plan for JQ changed or delayed.

Since the USA has now become the revenue jewel in QF's crown, we are also now looking as QF sees added value in possible destinations such as ORD. Asia has also gained QF's attention and commitment to better service, due to the uncouplng of Asia-Europe routes, courtesy of the EK venture.

Ultimately, people are looking at the placement of the order for 8 B787-9's rather than looking at the big picture IMHO. As the cost of oil has fallen, it has allowed QF to make the sensible decision to retain the 2 extra B747-400's and fly them economically.

I believe that QF will certainly place more orders for the B787-9 and the yet to be ordered B787-10. AJ talks about PER-LHR posibilities with the B787-9, so I don't see QF going for the B777-8 (SYD-JFK nonstop would really be its only genuine mission IMO), given that they will be tethered to the A380-800 for many years. Perhaps the A350-900 / 1000 may be a more flexible option - and it would allow QF/Airbus some flexibility with the outstanding 8 A380-800 options.

Right now, I would see the following as possible B787-9 routes, going forward (ie. forgetting the so-far 8 ordered frames and encompassing a fleet plan a decade out):

1. SYD-DFW-SYD double daily. Would allow 2 A380's to be reassigned for DXB-LHR or HKG explansion. Would also solve the block / non-sale issue of 100 seats on DFW-SYD. Maintains growth for the popular DFW route. Downside? No First Class.

2. BNE-DFW-BNE daily. Americans loved the B747 service to BNE as it allowed better access to the Barrier Reef and allowed connections to MEL-ADL-PER without the SYD shuffle.

3. MEL-DFW-MEL has often been mentioned by AJ.

4. SYD-ORD-SYD. Not quite so convinced on this one yet. ORD is a great business destination, but doesn't have the leisure market pull of NYC, LAX or DFW, despite being in the US top 3 cities. Downside? Could be done as a tag-on from LAX by QF or by AA codeshare from LAX, SFO or DFW. Also, when QF was originally planning ORD prior to 9/11, it would have been from MEL, not SYD.

5. Don't underestimate SYD-SEA. Sizeable business market with companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing and many others having sizeable representation in Australia. Also has leisure market awareness ex Australia as a destination.

6. Asia. I could see QF using a mix of B787 fleet to service Japan (ie: MEL-NRT daily), also replacing A330's eventually to PVG, BKK, SIN from multiple cities. Then, there are currently unserved cities where QF depends on codeshares (PVG, ICN, SGN etc). Resumption of PEK and the India market should be considered - since the B787 family (8,9 or 10) can operate more cost-effectively than the old B747 fleet could - smaller size, better economics etc.

7. What to do with SCL and JNB? I am sure that QF would be watching LAN's experience with the B787 and will be keen to move CASA on the issue of ETOPS across the Southern Pacific. However, CASA won't be pushed so easily on this one yet, since the issue of ETOPS on this route and others (SYD-LAX/SFO on UA, and AKL-USA on NZ) is largely being driven outside Australian borders. It will happen eventually, but maybe not as quickly as desired.

8. Other unknown / unannunced destinations. With the value of the US dollar, HNL and the US mainland may take a hit, going forward. Could that see the resumption of PPT or MEX (or a combination of both) on a B787-9. POM used to be a well-served destination from SYD, BNE and CNS? Could this now be viable? Further, what is the possibility that QF could choose to 'plant' 2-3 frames permanently in DXB, as connectors to QF1 etc to be used for DXB-intra-Europe services (think FRA, TXL/BLN where EK is restricted) or CDG or MAD/BCN? Perhaps SYD-LIM-SYD as another connect point to LANTAM?

9. And yes .. the B787's will be required to replace B767's eventually (subject to capex being expanded). I agree somewhat with your your A321 premise, since there are already some non-NEO versions with the JQ fleet - and one can't ignore the QF group committment to the 100 frame Airbus order. I don't see the B737-9's being such a clear choice, at this stage, though. However, anything can happen.

As said (and shown) the market - and the missions for the B787 in QF's fleet is constantly changing. When they do arrive next year, I think we will see some quite unexpected and exciting changes afoot. Just my 2c worth.

FLX

Member since 10 Dec 2015

Total posts 14

<<...QF will certainly place more orders for the B787-9..>>

I'd go further to predict QF Group will convert more 787 options into firm order right after 789 1st delivery /service entry with QF in 2017(Right timing fm the CapEx /funding perspective of a typical listed airline corp).  QF Group currently holds 787 option x15 + purchase right x30.  The only thing I can't predict is how many & which variant(e.g. 789 vs 78J).

Unless QF Group go into another financial meltdown(Like it did 4-5yrs ago) within the nex 5yrs, I view all 787 options held by QF as good as firm order and all purchase rights as good as options @ this stage.  I suspect Boeing has already planned future 787  production slot allocations for QF as per my view....

<<...I don't see QF going for the B777-8..>>

But that was precisely the type mentioned by AJ on public record(E.g. search 17Nov2015 on www.austb.com.au) as the most likely nex type to be acquired by QF.  Technically, also a perfect fit in terms of size+performance for QF ops to S.America....when regulator eventually lift the ban.  But then again realistically, QF can't get a 778 until late 2023 anyway even if they order 1 tomorrow(They won't....more like 2018 or thereafter).  EIS for 778 is 2022 and 77X program order backlog queue is already @ 300+ today and 1st delivery won't start until early 2020.

<<...they will be tethered to the A380-800 for many years...>>

No doubt per the usual QF fleet replacement practices.  Oldest frame in QF is under 8yrs old today.

<<..Perhaps the A350-900 / 1000 may be a more flexible option...>>

Despite plenty of his comments re 778, AJ did not make a peep in public about the 350 nor 380Neo at all. 

<<...the outstanding 8 A380-800 options>>

Incorrect data.  QF holds only 4 options but 8 firm orders still outstanding re 380.  The firm orders were delayed by QF in 2012 fm @ least 4yrs to indefinite.

Himeno

Member since 12 Dec 2012

Total posts 289

"and it would allow QF/Airbus some flexibility with the outstanding 8 A380-800 options."

Qantas first ordered 12 A380s and 12 options in late 2000. They converted 8 of the options into firm orders in 2006 leaving 20 orders, 4 options. 8 remain to be delivered after being defered in 2012.

FLX

Member since 10 Dec 2015

Total posts 14

<<another member stated that A330s are only more efficient at short distances (3000 to 4000km)...>>

There're @ least 4 pax variants in the <<A330s>> family launched by Airbus so far and none is @ a similar fuel efficiency level as the other namely:  332, 333, 338 and 339(Former 2 branded as 330Ceo while the latter 2 are branded 330Neo)

My comment is strictly based on industry std fuel efficiency definition(i.e. CASM or CASK) and U would noticed that I referred specifically to the 333(And 763ER)...definitely not the entire 330 family which would be a meaningless exercise(i.e. why pick on 1 variant in the 787 family to compare against all variants in the 330 family each @ its own fuel efficiency level?).

In terms of fuel efficiency, 339 would be closest to the 789 and the mission range will rise to around 5,000-7,000km where the 2 will likely match each other in fuel burn per seat.  332/338 will never match 789 fuel burn per seat in whatever mission range mostly because of the signficant diff in seat count.  None of these take belly cargo lift into the equation.

If all these are too complex /technical for U, just remember this quick rule of thumb:

Latest gen widebody families(e.g. 330Neo, 787, 350) deliver almost all of their hi-tech fuel burn advantages during cruise.  The longer the cruise, the more advantages are realized.  This is precisely why on shorter hops /cruise, older gen types(e.g. 330Ceo, 763ER) thru their old-fashioned lower weights can match or exceed the fuel efficiency of newer types.....I mean just take a look of those huge Trent7000 turbofans to get a clue how much a 330Neo will be heavier than a 330Ceo.

<<...since I don't know QF's cargo demands>>

I would venture to say the same re pax demand....  But when the industry benchmark fuel efficiency, it always assume full load(either pax only or pax+cargo).

<<...whether QF will use the Dreamliner as an A330-200 replacement on shorter haul....>>
Way too early to tell given that the oldest 332 in QF fleet is only 12yrs old and QF is still flying 24yrs+ old 744(And similar vintage 763ER on domestic routes before it's retired recently).  12yrs fm now is an eternity in this industry and a lot can happen @ QF fleet planning over that period especially if U recall 12yrs ago, QF had not even ordered any 787 yet and a lot did happened to its 787 order since QF placed the initial order(Upto 787 x115units including firm orders+options+purchase rights back then).....

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 02 Jul 2011

Total posts 835

I think you got your maths wrong - its more 8h45min, slightly shorter than SYD-HKG

In any event that's not a short haul route and well within the operating matrix of the 787.

Boeing was going to produce a 787-3 with smaller wings for short operations but cancelled it..

If you don't manage to fill a larger plane, even if its better for the route, you won't make money.

kimshep

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 11 Oct 2014

Total posts 336

No, I didn't get my maths wrong moa999.

If you go to the Vietnam Airlines website and check their online schedule for this route, that is the figure that is shown for their current B777-200ER service.

It puzzled me also for exactly the same reason you have cited. It also seems nominally longer SYD-PVG or PEK.

Agree on each of your other points - hence 'resizing', I suspect.

GregXL

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 26 May 2014

Total posts 303

No, when I look at the VN schedules I see local arrival and departure times, not flight times.  Time difference not included.  

kimshep

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 11 Oct 2014

Total posts 336

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 02 Jul 2011

Total posts 835

I think that Vietnam Airlines gets it wrong.

Google reports 8h45min SYD-SGN and 8h40min SGN-SYD with the same times:

Google: Flights from SYD-SGN

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