Travel, in a "flash"

One of the points I like to make in my presentations is about the value of direct flights.

As I travel to different regions, for each of my presentations I’ve developed a nifty little animation piece that helps bring home the true benefits of point to point service. Below is a Flash animation of a hypothetical journey from Los Angeles to Brisbane – nonstop vs. flying through a large hub first.

Boeing Image

A passenger would save three hours on this journey by flying point-to-point to Brisbane on a Boeing 787-8. The alternative would mean a stopover and the added delay and hassle of a change of planes. (Click on the image to open a new window and start the animation.)

The benefits of point to point travel are very clear:

  • More convenience and time savings for passengers
  • Lower operating costs and potential increased revenue for airlines
  • Better utilization of the fleet
  • Less environmental impact

On that last point, you may have heard of the study published by Cranfield University in the UK – The Environmental Cost Implication of Hub-hub Versus Hub Bypass Flight Networks. You can download a PDF of the study here. In it, five long-haul markets were evaluated on a hub-to-hub and a hub bypass (point-to-point) basis.

The study found that the noise and emissions impact of point-to-point networks was significantly lower than hub-to-hub in all cases.

The bottom line for me is, it’s not only more convenient for you, and costs airlines less to fly point-to-point, it’s also better for the environment.

So the trend we’ve seen of airlines choosing to accommodate traffic growth by flying more flights to more places and offering more direct service - rather than flying larger and larger airplanes - should be no surprise. It’s a trend that’s here to stay – and certainly, no “flash in the pan.”

Comments (21)

Vaidya Sethuraman (Chicago, IL, USA):

The animation makes the point of direct flights well. A380 as a hub to hub airplane, I understand, but why A320 , I am not clear. Second with A350 filling the gap in Airbus product line, this graphic will no longer work that well for Boeing.


The A320 represents the connecting flight necessary to complete the journey on the hub-to-hub routing.

Concerning your last point, you're correct that the competition is offering a smaller twin-engine widebody capable of point-to-point flights. But the message remains the same. The clear trend is toward direct service in smaller airplanes, not bigger and bigger airplanes flying between hubs.

- Randy Tinseth

Mike (Sydney, Australia):

I think the sales for the 787 back up your presentation Randy. It's amazing the mind shift (for everyone else but Boeing I add) from when the A380 was first mooted to now. Now that point to point concept has sunk in. It has however, taken something like the Dreamliner to make it more of a reality.


And more importantly, one less chance for the airline to lose your luggage.

Now that's a deciding factor in my book : )

G (France):

Mid-sized airplanes for mid-sized hubs?


The point is nicely illustrated but obscures the fact that the 787 and A380 are designed for totally different markets. If the two airplanes were working the same route, the higher-capacity A380 can carry more local O&D traffic and--in the specific example cited--can provide connecting service to even smaller cities just as well as the 787 (such as Hobart, Tasmania, perhaps?)



The 787 and A380 are indeed aimed different markets, and we agree that large airplanes (such as our new 747-8 Intercontinental) fulfill the need for long-haul services on very dense airport pairs, such as LAX-Sydney. The point we’re making is that new markets continue to develop that don’t require an airplane over 450 seats.

It’s doubtful a city of around 200,000 people, such as Hobart, would warrant a nonstop long-haul service, and would probably still require a connection as you've stated. The 787 will allow for more direct long-haul services for cities somewhere in between the size of a Sydney and a Hobart. Brisbane comes to mind as market where a 787-sized airplane could offer profitable daily nonstop services, given the relative size of the market (1.5 million people) and number of passengers making trans-Pacific journeys.

The reality is that there will always be airport pairings too small to justify a nonstop. The right-sized 787 makes it easier for airlines to offer new nonstops on mid-sized long-haul markets, something that wouldn’t have been possible with the previous generation of twin-aisle airplanes!

- Randy Tinseth


I would like to ask if the flight depicted using the A320 and A380 would be any different by using a 747-8 Intercontinental and a 737? Likewise, would the flight depicted with a 787-8 take be any different if it used an A350-800?

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

Firstly, congratulations on the setting of the 747-8I configuration. But I'm left thinking of other such achievements in the recent past - specifically that of the 777-300ER. I recall that when Anderson's team reached configuration, the aircraft's range still had some way to go to reach the current standard.

I'd just like to know what the problem with Dubai-Los Angeles is - where the 747-8I is concerned. I'm as confused as the A380:) This route is less than 7300nm. I accept that every airline has individual requirements and configurations.
If the 747-8I was designed for 8000nm at typical loads (467 pax + an X amount of cargo), can polar winds really be strong enough to prevent Dubai-Los Angeles? Is the problem the heat in Dubai? Or is the X too small?

I was just wondering, because this is starting to look like A340-600 PR.

Eduardo (São Paulo, SP, Brazil):

About the flash comparison...
Don’t you think that would be fairer to compare the arrival in Sidney for both aircraft?
If you want to compare speed, as I know, you should compare, at least, the same distance.
For sure that, if passengers go to Brisbane they would like to go with 787-8 to have a non-stop flight, but if they would like to go to Sidney, they would choose A380?

And another point... about environment...
You are showing 787-8 cleaner than the A380. I don’t have technical data, but if it’s possible, I would like to know, if the A380, which allows more passengers per flight than 787-8 is less “clean” if we compare the environment impact and number of passengers, with the standard configuration in both aircraft.

From my point of view, this environment impact that all OEMs are talking now is very relative since depends on many factors.
For example, the A380/A320 and 787-8 to Brisbane. Considering that the A380 is full field and when it arrives in Sidney the passenger has to take another flight, in this case A320, to Brisbane, and if the A320 is also full field, do you really think that this travel would impact more the environment per passenger than B787-8? I mentioned this, because you also have to consider that the flight from Sidney to Brisbane also takes people that are not from LA and will not be benefited from the 787-8 non-stop.
So, in my opinion, you should add the 787-8 from LA to Brisbane to another flight, perhaps with 737, attending the demand from Sidney to Brisbane. I think that would be a fairer comparison regarding the environmental issue.

Ted Cook (Mt. Vernon, WA):

How much efficiency do you really gain by flying larger planes? I'm sure there are diminishing returns in economy of scale at a certain size. Maybe after the 787-9, Boeing will never need to build a plane larger than that.

Jim (Indiana):

I've always wondered if the airlines that are ordering the 787 are really planning on using them for point-to-point travel.

Is there really enough passenger demand for flights like LA to Brisbane, Miami to Taipei, or Seattle to Geneva (the last two being examples from a previous Randy Baseler journal entry... I won't even get into my options for airports like Indianapolis or Louisville) to make them economically viable, or are the airlines merely going to use the 787 as a more fuel-efficient 767, continuing to congest the same cities with the same hub-to-hub flights, while simply enjoying the extra money that gets to stay in their pockets?

Dan (France):

It's certainly logical that it takes less time and fuel to fly one plane between two points, rather than through a hub with two planes.

But I am wondering what would happen to the picture if we looked at an entire airline network, rather than only the specific pair examined here.

If an airline operating a hub system wanted to convert point to point without losing any Origin-Destination pairings, there must be a lot more planes flying overall.

Chris C (South Africa):

Congratulations on reaching the important milestone of design freeze for the phenomenal 747-8 Intercontinental! Further, well done and congratulations on the stupendous order from highly respected Cathay Pacific Airways for the 747-8Freighter!! That's a fantastic endorsement for the highly-efficient 747!! The 747-8 family is The Shape of the Future, period.

Birgit (Germany):

Talking of environmental impact...designing airplanes with 8000NM range isn't exactly the best way to go. Flying two legs of 4000NM with one stop-over instead of one nonstop 8000NM trip would save up to 30% of fuel.
If you'd be serious on environmental impact, you'd make a stop-over in Hawaii and design an airplane with sufficient range to get to Brisbane from there. Block time would still be less than the hub-and-spoke operation via Sydney while burning much less fuel.



The 787 has been optimized for long range travel. And when you consider the environmental impact of additional take-offs and landings (especially, looking at community noise), the impact of indirect routing (seldom will you find an optimal "way point" for your stop) on fuel consumption, the time saving for passengers, and the cost savings to the airlines, an aircraft like the 787-8, 787-9, or the 777 is clearly the best choice for airlines.

- Randy Tinseth

Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):

I like the point to point air service over the stop
over and transfer method, the hub and spoke method
means more time in travel as well as a high chance if missing a flight because your flight was late. Their is also a high probability of losing the luggage.

The use of a smaller jetliner like the B787 means a traveler can get to the prime destination more precisely than with a super jumbo like the A380.

T. Mwamba (Bloomington, Illinois):

Can you explain something to us: how can Boeing do so poorly in the Middle East? It has a very good product in the B787 yet most airline companies in that area chose the A350. Losing the EK order is definitely a huge blow! Why wait so long to put forth the specifications of the B787-10? Airbus seems to have outwitted you on this one, don't you think? It played on big is better(i.e. XWB) and you were caught napping again (see 767 vs 330)! What do you say to this? By the way, I am a die hard Boeing fan!


What would this simulation be like if you were to incorporate the boeing 777 long-range as well? Besides, the being 777 lon-range can carry more loads than the 787 right? So would that make a difference too?

Neil D. (Bothell, WA):

One point that one may easily overlook is that once the point-to-point implementation get started, the hub traffic will die down as will the demand for the mega jumbos confined to the hubs.

Every time I fly to Southern California, I try my best to bypas the LAX which adds 2 wasted hours to my trip!

J Jensen (Roy, UT):

First let me say I love the 747, I have been since the first time I saw one when I was 10. However I am wondering if its time is done as a passenger carrier. The 747-8I got a severe bloody nose with British Airways passing on it in favor of the A380. Then this past weekend in Dubai Emerates dumped her in favor of the A350 and more A380's. I have hated to say this because there is nothing like seeing the "Queen" take off. BUT! Isn't it time to stop believing the 747 is a 21st century jet. Its time to lengthen the 777 and either shorten the 777 or commit to the 787-10. Airbus was in a corner, it isn't anymore and I see Boeing sitting on its laurels that are 6 months late.

Ted Cook (Mt. Vernon, WA):

Great map of the Pacific! Your choice of planes, 747-8, 787, 380, 350, all with 8000nm range. And now the Atlantic, same choice of planes with lots of unused range and extra structural weight. Maybe the 757 is just that good a plane that it can't be beat.

Bob Bushlow (Huntington Beach, Ca):

This is a great way to communicate the benefits of direct flights. The presentation is exciting and holds the readers interest. Can a similar scenario be developed for the the Atlantic?

Robert Waggoner (Brisbane):

OK, we've heard some of the hard facts, here are some of the soft (but real) facts:

1. Veteran travellers absolutely prefer direct over hub routing. In addition to the 3 hours saved in the LAX-BNE example given, would it not be unreasonable to expect that you might have to plane on getting to the airport sooner to board the A380...and it's always more noisy and congested in the terminal around gates boarding 'jumbo' numbers of pax--the 'pro' biz traveller does not like wading through gate areas on flights full of budget tourist travellers.

2. As another reader commented, twice the number of movements (hub and then spoke flight) gives you twice the chance to miss a flight, have the airline lose a bag, get a bag damaged (twice the handling),
leave some belonging--bag, book, laptop, shopping bag, etc., on the plane, twice the chance to be affected by weather delays, air traffic delays, labour action delays...and connecting passenger delays---those A380s will often be sitting in LAX waiting for 500 pax from all over the USA to flow into LAX and get on (and we know Qantas is not going to want to lose that rev so they will wait) and they do it in Sydney all the time too going back to LAX---twice the size airplane = twice the problem with this airline behavior)....and some elderly pax will get stressed (and lost) trying to make their spoke 75 year old mom had a heart attack at ORD doing exactly that a few years ago...let's not forget that those A380s will be full of budget travellers returning with enough extra carryon turist crappola to fill the overheads twice....getting on-off two planes equals twice the hassle.

I think you fail to emphasize the MO and preferences of the guy paying the bills---the full fare biz know and the airlines know that biz flyers like to move smoothly and quickly throug airports and prefer planes full of fellow biz flyers to noisy, inexperienced 'touristas' lugging lots o 'Detroit Samsonite'. The airlines want this biz pax. I avoid gate areas where big tourist flights are gathering or's like a noisy carnival and playground for the kids...the biz guy wants a nice quiet, dull, boring gate area where he can relax, make calls, talk with a colleague, play with the pc, etc.

Am I right or wrong?

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