Are Larger Planes Feasible?

In my previous post, I showed how, in New York, high-speed rail can’t realistically be expected to reduce demand for travel much, and so to decongest its airspace something else is needed. The solutions are to reduce the number of slots, which means either moving them elsewhere (i.e. building relief airports) or increasing plane size. Although increasing plane size is desirable from an operational and environmental point of view, it has problems that make it harder than in Japan, where short-distance domestic flights use widebodies as large as the 747. In contrast, because short-distance air shuttles in the Northeast use very small planes, high-speed rail is a surprisingly promising way to reduce air congestion, despite my original implication.

The key to the plane size problem is this chart of the world’s top air city pairs, with Seoul-Jeju topping at nearly 10 million passengers per year. The chart mainly shows Asian city pairs; Europe and the US are not on the chart. The reason is that the chart considers individual airports, rather than city airspaces; data from within the US shows that there are city pairs that would make the list, all multi-airport. New York-South Florida is close to 20,000 passengers per day, or 7.1 million per year, but there are three airports at each end, and they are fairly evenly matched: the busiest of the nine airport pairs, LaGuardia-Fort Lauderdale, has just 3,500 passengers per day, too few to make the international list.

What this means is that if airlines offer any frequency, it’s harder to provide service with larger planes. Harder does not mean impossible, but this is nothing like the huge travel volumes between Haneda and Japan’s other major domestic airports. Larger planes soak up passengers very quickly: despite being the world’s busiest airport pair measured by seats flown, Tokyo-Sapporo has 23 flights per day, with 767s and 777s, compared with 60 for New York-Boston, mostly regional jets.

The other issue is competition between airlines. Tokyo-Sapporo is a duopoly between ANA and Japan Airlines. The busiest routes in the US have more companies, and if they don’t, then they’re dominated by a low-cost carrier, which will stick to narrowbodies to maintain fleet uniformity. The American competition, including the presence of low-cost carriers, lowers the fare: a random check of a roundtrip between Tokyo and Sapporo in early December gives me a fare of about $900 roundtrip, versus $80 one-way for New York-Chicago for the same check, or $171 on average.

However, the competition also means that if each airline wants to offer high frequency on its own, it must fly smaller planes. Even a plane every two hours works out to about 8 departures per day per direction; if the plane is a 787, it’s nearly 4,000 passengers per day in both directions. The busiest single-airline, single-airport pair in the US is American flying LaGuardia-O’Hare, at 2,400 passengers per day; this excludes connecting traffic, but connecting traffic will not by its own make the difference between LaGuardia-O’Hare and Tokyo-Sapporo.

To ordinary travelers the choice of airline doesn’t matter too much: there’s no difference between having two airlines each with flights that leave on the hour, and having each airline’s flights depart every other hours so that they overlie and create hourly frequency. At 6,300 passenger per day on all airlines, JFK-LAX has enough traffic as it is to run fifteen 787s per day in each direction. But other airport pairs not dominated by low-cost carriers, including those to South Florida, could only support three to five 787s.

More speculatively, good transit access to airports – including commuter rail through-running to allow easy travel from New Jersey and Westchester to JFK and from Long Island to Newark – could reduce the difference between Newark and JFK for the average traveler. This means that Newark and JFK could be lumped together. Business travelers may still want their hourly flights out of LaGuardia, but the rest could do with a flight out of each of JFK and Newark every two hours, alternating.

The problem is that it requires a massive rise in the transit mode share of airport access, because it is impossible to drive between JFK and New Jersey in a reasonable amount of time. That said, a political environment that taxed jet fuel to incentivize larger planes would also tax gas and induce a mode shift toward transit. In either case, LaGuardia would be outside this system, since connecting it to mass transit is expensive, and has little benefit other than airport travel; in contrast, commuter rail through-running is not only cheaper but also useful to people traveling to the Jamaica and Newark CBDs, who outnumber air travelers.

So on the busiest routes larger planes are feasible, but nontrivial. The final question should be how useful this exercise is. Each of New York’s three main airports has about a thousand aircraft movements per day – five hundred per direction. There are about 110 daily departures to Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles, combined. Consolidation into larger planes can realistically cut about a third, or 3% of aircraft movements – a bit more at JFK, a bit less at the rest on account of low-cost flights. Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach add another 50 between them, but they’re dominated by JetBlue. A few additional thick markets like San Francisco and Orlando add a bit more, but it can’t amount to more than 5% of the total.

In contrast, there are more than 40 daily flights to Washington, more than 60 to Boston (including Providence and Manchester), and nearly 30 to Philadelphia. Adding in the other cities within 3-hour HSR radius gives us about 300 departures per day, 19% of the aircraft movements. Most of those would see O&D air travel disappear, and even at the outer margin of the radius they’d see air travel greatly diminish. Connecting flights would also decrease, because of the relative ease of air/rail connections. Philadelphia would have no reason for an air connection to New York if people could take a train to the airport that were faster than flying; the same is true of Boston and Washington, though Boston is far enough and has no easy air/rail connection, so it might retain a handful of daily flights.

Although I could weasel and say that everything is needed – larger planes, relief airports, and substitution of short trips by HSR – the reality is that those are not equally significant. Not even close. My previous post’s analysis of New York’s air market papered over a large difference between the share of passenger traffic and the share of aircraft traffic that can be substituted by HSR, coming from the use of regional jets on short-range flights. (By the way, this is especial to New York; in California most short-range flights are run by Southwest and use 737s, and so at LAX, the share of short-range flights among both passengers and aircraft movements is the same, at 21%.)

So as it turns out, a significant portion of New York’s air traffic can be replaced, helping decongest the airspace. The total is close to a quarter, of which nearly 20% comes from HSR replacing the air shuttles, and an additional 3-5% could come from consolidation of domestic thick markets into less frequent flights on widebodies.


  1. Eric F

    When Airbus developed the monstrous A380, Boeing went a different route and began R&D on the smaller 787. I thought it odd that the media never noted how the American and Europeans were playing the exact opposite roles that media stereotypes would suggest they would play, with the U.S. opting for an ultra modern fuel-sipper and the Euros building a behemoth, but then the media is rarely self-aware like that. My question about the use of an A-380 in a U.S. airport is: how is a typical barely functional U.S. ground system going to handle boarding and baggage retrieval for one of these things. When I get off at JFK now from a 737 it can take near to an hour to get a bag. How is this going to work when the luggage of another hundred + people is added in? In short, huge planes place additional costs and inefficiencies on passengers and airports that make them relatively undesirable relative to smaller planes. I suspect there will come a time when a traveler will seek out a 787 and pay some premium for space on it and only fly an A380 if there’s some discount relative to a seat on a normal sized aircraft.

    • Alon Levy

      Well, normally, larger is cheaper and more fuel-efficient – absolute fuel consumption is higher, but per-seat fuel consumption is lower. For the same reason, a full bus is much more fuel-efficient than a full sedan. Unrelated to this, planes have been getting more and more fuel-efficient over time. The 787 is the culmination of that – its fuel consumption is 21% less than that of the 767, which is substantial but not a game changer. (By the way, Airbus is developing a similar product, the 350. The main counter-stereotypical development is not fuel consumption, but rather than Airbus planes are roomier than the competing Boeing products: the 320 has wider seats than the 737, the 350 has wider seats than the 787, etc.)

      I honestly do not know about the more delicate operational issues about baggage handling and such. My guess is that it’s still easier to unload a single 747 than three 737s, because you need fewer carousels. With the same number of carousels, 737s would require you to clear each carousel faster, and then if there’s an immigration line you’ll get to the carousel five flights after yours. Arriving at JFK on 747s and 340s I’d usually get to the carousel one or two flights later. That said, it’s just a hunch, and I don’t know if the number of carousels is the limiting factor.

      • Max Wyss

        The advantage of widebodies concerning baggage is that in the widebody, baggage is transported in containers, whereas in the narrowbodies, bags are individually stowed and unloaded (and placed on the baggage carts). Unloading a full load of containers is much faster than unloading a full load of individual bags etc. Unloading a narrow body means that each bag has to be handled twice, whereas with the containers, it gets handled once. The consequence is that the bags handled via container are available faster in the carousels.

        It is correct that the Airbus narrowbodies have wider seats (about 3 cm per seat), because the fuselage diameter is greater than with Boeing narrowbodies (which has not changed since the B-707, and probably won’t change for some time, as the new and improved B-737 have the same fuselage diameter…

  2. Andre Lot

    When one talks about flight pairs between hubs, it is impossible to ignore the role of the hub-and-spoke system itself. The major carriers are all able to transport passengers between any of their North American destinations in the same day with usually no more than 2 transfers, which is requires quite an ingenious planning.

    Moreover, all airlines are not equal. Despite the fact they are flying similar planes, there are differences in their service level, miles programs, luggage policy that make people have preferences when they can choose. You cannot assume all flights are interchangeable.

    The fleet size is also a more complicated issue, I think. Planes are routinely kept on the air 15-18 hours a day these times. In many cases they are used on different routes throughout the day. Many airlines will let smaller planes “rest” on a smaller airport so that they can be flown to a hub first thing in the morning, carrying schedule-sensitive business travelers to major hub where they can then catch hub-to-hub flights as early as possible. If you look carefully on flight schedules from small(er) airports to hubs, you will notice how there is a concentration of early arrivals (and late departures) on the hub. If an airline sudden reduced its fleet count to half, making it of airlines with double seating capacity, it would make operations impossible without greatly reducing the convenience for flights not involving major airport-to-major airport traffic.

    With exception taken on low-cost carriers, flying is also usually cheaper if you opt for an indirect flight with transfers, as that usually means an airline using marginal capacity to undercut another airline that operates a direct flight between a city pair. It is an extremely interesting (from the academic viewpoint) form of price discrimination (in the economic terminology): airlines know business travelers or time-sensitive costumers will pay more for direct convenient flights, thus they know, beyond classical advance-purchase yield management, they can capture passengers from rivals by offering discounts on indirect routes that take much longer and imply transfers without jeopardizing their own ability to charge more for passengers travelling on their prime routes.

    Finally, an important note: aircraft fuel consumption per seat is not a monotonically decreasing function of aircraft size. That is the likely the case on long distance (>5 or 6h) flights where 80% of more of fuel is burned at cruising phase, but definitively is an open game for shorter routes. Using an A380 for hopping between Dulles and JFK, for instance, will bring some issues: the airplane will takeoff much lighter (less fuel) than its optimally designed weight (in other words: even with 1/4 full tanks, it would be still carrying dead structural weight that is there for its intended range fuel demand.

    Using big airplanes intended for transcontinental routes on short haul will, down the road, subject them to maintenance programs based on movements earlier than the usually paired need for replacement/maintenance of items based on flight hours, creating asynchronous maintenance schedules (=more downtime for the aircraft). The larger the plane, the more disruptive to the airline network is taking one off for C or D maintenance. An A380, at the best scenario, will take at least 2h for a turn-over vs. 30 minutes for an ERJ145.

    • Nathanael

      “The major carriers are all able to transport passengers between any of their North American destinations in the same day with usually no more than 2 transfers,”

      Same day? Well, technically. If you count 23 1/2 hour trips as same day, then yes.

      The fact is the airlines optimize for the more popular routes. Trying to go between two minor cities, you really don’t get same-day service, you get gruelling “just on the verge of tolerable” connections. The schedule may claim that the service is better, but in practice the connecting flights on the hub-to-spoke leg are unreliable and frequently get delayed by multiple hours, while the flights on the hub-to-hub leg don’t wait for delayed flights from the spoke-to-hub leg, so it ends up being sloooow.

      This is one thing which provides a huge opportunity for trains; airlines are kind of horrible at serving smaller markets, and trains along the right routes are really rather good at serving a large number of smaller markets.

      • Nathanael

        “Same day” trips on airlines have ended up being over 24 hours quite routinely for me.

      • Alon Levy

        Trains are good at this iff the cities lie on a neat straight line. In Upstate New York, it works very well, because you have the Southern Tier cities, and a tractable Binghamton-Ithaca-Syracuse Y. In parts of the South it also works well; the lines are too low-quality and freight-dominated, but the basic urban geography of Tennessee or North Carolina or South Carolina lends itself neatly to one cross-state line intersecting the high-speed network with some short branches. But as you go farther west, things get harder – there’s too much distance, the railroads are freight mainlines (=you sit on the siding for 40 minutes because some hot intermodal got delayed), and although the towns were settled by rail, usually the significant towns today are not always on one line, or at least not on one easy line.

        • Nathanael

          True. It’s working OK in Illinois *despite* that, though you can see that it involves very large investment in multiple lines to Chicago. Similarly it seems to be viable in Michigan and Ohio *despite* the “random dots on a map” layout of the major cities. But you’re right, trains have a lot more trouble providing good service in those regions.

          It works very well on the west coast, where the mountains organize all the cities into north-south lines. It would probably work very well in Utah and Colorado for the same reason; they’re both lined up in north-south strings.

          There’s also a north-south string of cities along the Mississippi, and a string along the Missouri, and an east-west string along the Ohio, though those suffer from the bends of the rivers and would require extensive construction to build fast railroad routes.

          The rest of the midwest, between the Rockies and the Mississippi but excluding Colorado and Illinois, has really quite low population and gets terrible airline service already; so standards are lower and people compare the train to driving, not to flying.

          I am ignoring the Southwest and Texas as I figure that drought will make them unimportant locations within 20-50 years.

          • Alon Levy

            I recently booked a flight from the East Coast to Wichita, and it was remarkably normal. One connection at O’Hare, not too long. About the fare you’d expect for that distance. The schedule sucks because of yield management hell and a busy time of year, but it’d beat any attempt to use rail for even part of the trip. Kansas City-Wichita is charitably 3 hours by a fast legacy train; it could be useful for trips within the state or to Missouri, modulo the fact that car ownership is 100%, but it has no realistic way of competing with flying to Chicago.

            On the other hand, the Deep South, outside Georgia and its French star-shaped city distribution, looks very interesting. The density may be too low, but the Atlanta and Texas anchors make some HSR feasible, and then you can run connecting lines along the coast from New Orleans to Mobile and along the Illinois Central up to Jackson and Memphis (problem: attitudes toward public transit in Mississippi and Alabama are retrograde).

          • Andre Lot

            Good, unwarranted snobbish old prejudice against the American Southwest (even if coated by climate speculation) aside, train routes are more, not less, subject to the effects of small markets in hard-to-fit geometries. You probably also ignore the fact “Texas” is a an enormous jurisdiction where Corpus Christi, Houston, Lubbock and El Paso have very different weather patterns anyway.

            Even erratic schedules of 2 or 3 daily flights requiring multiple transfers will still make air travel times competitive with driving or taking fast (non-HSR) trains. The travel time penalty incurred by doubling the land distance covered for airplanes in a short haul flight is much less than that of train travel, for obvious reasons.

            To extrapolate that reasoning: even if you had a 22h travel time high-speed Los Angeles – New York train departing from each city 30 times a day round the clock, and the alternative were only 4 or 5 daily flights connecting in Denver, Chicago, Phoenix or Dallas, flying would still be much competitive, like having one daily flight option from Mobile, AL to Amsterdam via Memphis and Boston is much more competitive than any possible hypothetical turn-up-an-go 40knot ocean liner serving the route with stopovers in Tampa, Miami, the Azores and Southampton.

            Let’s not forget a turboprop can operate at cruising speeds of 290-330mph, economically efficiently (barring $ 400/barrel oil), with a mere 25-30 passengers.on board, which means a city-pair route of less than 100 passengers per day can be economically feasible for a flight. I doubt anyone would ever suggest laying rail to transport 100 passengers per day. High(er) speed train routes need much higher volumes to break even than flight routes, for, again, obvious reasons ATC is many orders of magnitude cheaper than fixed-way railway infrastructure laid all over.

            In any case, train-to-airport services might displace a lot of flights as we discussed on Alon’s previous threads. Some rail companies even code-share with airlines offering scheduled reserved seats on train in connection with flights such that is your train to the airport has a problem, you are treated as if you were a passenger whose previous flight was delayed and made you lose your connection.

          • BruceMcF

            In a hypothetical system with Express HSR corridors built out where they are justified, Express Intercity corridors built out where they are justified, and the justifiable transcontinental Rapid Freight Rail network, East Coast to West Coast would still be dominated by air, but many hub to spoke trips would be competitive or dominated by rail, and the balance of trips would tilt more toward longer trips.

            Sleepers don’t modify this for Coast to Coast trips, since the 10hr-14hr transit of an ideal sleeper connection is 700mi – 1000mi for a transit speed of 70mph on a Rapid Freight Rail or Express Intercity corridor. However, in that setting, they would seem likely to carve out their own niche in travel between neighboring regions, which might to some limited degree increase the tilt of air travel toward longer trips.

          • Nathanael

            Andre, I love the Southwest: Arizona and New Mexico, as well as southern Colorado and Utah, are lovely places which I’ve been to several times.

            But Phoenix is a completely ridiculous and impossible city due to its location in the middle of a very hot desert. I expect the smaller towns will survive, but the giant metro areas? They’ll need miracles.

            My visit to Houston was, if anything, hotter and more drought-ridden than Phoenix. And so was my visit to Dallas. And so was my visit to El Paso…. pretty nearly the whole of Texas is drought-prone, apart from the northeast corner. I suppose you’ll tell me San Antonio is different. Sure. Corpus Christi is, of course, flood-prone.

            Alon: I’ve flown to Omaha. That was *not* fast, involving IIRC two legs of travel from Chicago (maybe they have direct flights now, but at the time apparently they either didn’t or those didn’t fit the schedule), making for four travel legs rather than the usual three. I could easily believe that a fast Omaha-Chicago train would work.

            I guess Wichita gets better air service. It’s also even further west and south than Omaha, of course.

            The “lines” I was thinking of are the lines straight along the rivers, mind you. St Louis-Memphis-Vicksburg-Baton Rouge-New Orleans; KC-Omaha-Sioux City -Sioux Falls. Probably just not enough population on that last one, but the cities are lined up right. I guess the importance of Chicago (rather than St Louis) prevents that line from being as useful as it might be

            I admit to ignoring Alabama and Mississippi due to never travelling there.

          • Alon Levy

            In Mississippi, you’ll want to go inland to serve Jackson, rather than Vicksburg. Baton Rouge is bigger than Jackson, but it’s already between Houston and New Orleans.

            New Orleans has much more to fear than Houston – Houston may become even worse than it already is without air conditioning, but at least it’ll stay above water.

          • BruceMcF

            Relatively large cities in desert areas are nothing new to human history. Indeed, how much of the employment base of Phoenix or Houston is in agriculture and agro-industry? And how much of the rest is in water-sensitive industries? Smaller cities that have a larger employment base in their immediate rural hinterland seem more susceptible to depopulation than larger metropolitan areas that have relatively small agrarian base employment.

            Those cities along the Ohio / Lower Mississippi are often more important for cross-river routes than routes along the river, since they are the focus for bridges across the big rivers. For example, the Rock Island alignment from the Quad Cities to Omaha via Des Moines is anchored on the Rock Island rail bridge.

        • Adirondacker12800

          There are no population centers in the Southern Tier unless you are comparing the Southern Tier to remote parts of the Adirondacks. What population centers there are, they are off in the middle of nowhere and not along any reasonable route between larger population centers.

          Higher speed rail to Binghamton to New York City and Philadelphia, maybe, but that’s because there’s a reasonable ROW and it only has to go to Scranton. Sorry Nathaniel but you are going to be taking the Super Shuttle to Binghamton or Syracuse if you want to get on a train.

          • Alon Levy

            The Southern Tier has a couple of small towns, laid neatly on a line that allows low-cost regional rail. Just drop a 2-car DMU, maybe with a tilt mechanism if the line is too curvy, and run it between Binghamton and Elmira or Corning every hour.

            The same is true of a few other linear corridors in the mountains. New Hampshire can justify a line at least as far north as Concord, Western Mass can support a small regional network, Maine could support a short DMU connecting Portland and Bangor, Delmarva can support a line from Wilmington to Salisbury, etc. Trains don’t scale down as well as roads do, but if you’re connecting a string of urban areas in the 50,000-100,000 population range, they are still workable.

          • Adirondacker12800

            There aren’t enough people in Corning to fill up a bus an hour much less a DMU.

          • Alon Levy

            You’ll be surprised how much ridership a regional train can get. See here for a frequency chart of PACA; the low-density segment between Les Arcs-Draguignan and La Pauline-Hyères is similar in populations of cities served to Binghamton-Elmira(-Corning), and runs what I believe are 4-car bilevels. Of course Binghamton is not located close to a city the size of Toulon, but then again Hyères and Draguignan are not on a line that can with either an easy transfer or electrification and train-splitting gets them to New York in 3-3.5 hours. (Yes, 3-3.5 hours for New York-Binghamton is feasible with decent rolling stock.)

          • Adirondacker12800

            Binghamton ain’t Marseilles and Owego ain’t Toulon.

          • Alon Levy

            I’m not comparing them to Marseille and Toulon. That’s why I pointed you to the gap between the more frequent segments. Binghamton and Elmira are of similar size to Hyères and Draguignan.

            There are also short-distance lines in Germany serving cities of comparable or smaller size with half-hourly traffic, but the travel demand at 20 km is not the same as the demand at 100.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Peapack-Gladstone is smaller than any of them. It has half hourly service to Summit during peak and hourly service most of the day. Are people in Gillette using it to get to New Providence? A few. Are people using to get to Summit. A few. They are using it to get to Manhattan and a lesser extent Newark. Owego ain’t Summit and Binghamton isn’t Newark. And Binghamton isn’t ten miles from Manhattan. And Hyères and Draguignan aren’t 400 km from Marseilles.

          • Nathanael

            You’ve accepted Binghamton-Scranton-NYC.

            I give you Syracuse-Cortland-Binghamton as “ordinary-speed rail”. Track is intact; connections at both the north and south ends.

            It would be fairly popular. And honestly, the drive to *Cortland* I can handle.

          • Adirondacker12800

            The Phoebe Snow made it between Scranton and Binghamton as fast as driving on I-81. So it’s reasonable to think that they’d be able to do that today or a little better with better equipment. The connecting train in Binghamton took two hours. A lot slower than driving on I-81. Going to Scranton connects you to New York… faster than driving considering the traffic jams at the Delaware Water Gap and anywhere east of I-287. Someday it will give you Philadelphia. Where the traffic is almost as bad as it is in New York City and the parking is about the same.

            How hard is it to park in Binghamton or Syracuse?

            Click to access ParkingBrochure.pdf

            OMG $7 a day! Highway, well parking garage, robbery! The parking attendants in NYC want 7 bucks to tell you whether or not the garage is full. After paying a toll to cross the Delaware and the Husdon. Remind us what the tolls are on I-81.

            Binghamton has paid parking garages but the rates are bit of a secret. I betcha they are as outrageous as Syracuse’s.
            So Binghamton to Scranton gets you NYC and Philadelphia. Going to Philadelphia you get the Lehigh Valley which has more people than metro Syracuse and Binghamton combined and access to the network onto Baltimore and Washington DC. ,, and going to NYC gets you Newark. Seton Hall, Rutgers, Prudential… Hmmm. I wonder if there will be more people in Binghamton who want to go to Scranton or Syracuse. Hmm.

          • Alon Levy

            It’s all a matter of train size and frequency. New York-Scranton, too, is not New York-Washington, and can’t support what the NEC could support if it took less than 3:30 (or 2:47 with a huge surcharge). So don’t put 8-car trains between Binghamton and Syracuse; put 2-car trains. The advantage of multiple units is that they scale down this way.

          • Adirondacker12800

            If you are down to one or two cars of DMU out in the wilds of upstate New York it makes more sense to run a bus.

          • Alon Levy

            Why? The operating costs of a well-run DMU operations are the same as those of a bus, and the speed is much higher as soon as you introduce intermediate stops.

          • Adirondacker12800

            The old DL&W tracks between Binghamton and Syracuse wander along the river hitting every little hamlet along the way. The tracks that used to run through downtown Syracuse aren’t there anymore. Can’t get a train to the old NYCentral Station because they put I-690 along the ROW. So the wunder DMU would run to the south side of downtown and the Amtrak station is on the north side of downtown. Quite a hike. Or you’d have to decide that the Amtrak station has to be moved out to the Fairgrounds. A great place when the State Fair is running but not so much the rest of the year. Run a bus. It would be faster.

          • Alon Levy

            There’s a (less-than-dead-straight) track connection from the south side to the Amtrak station. In contrast, the freeway connection may not be there much longer – Syracuse is considering demolishing the southern part of I-81 and rerouting the Interstate along what is now I-481. Of course a bus can do the final leg on surface streets, but it takes a bit longer.

          • Adirondacker12800

            The connection to southbound tracks squiggles all over downtown. It connects to the Amtrak station well west of downtown and then would have to go east to get to the Amtrak Station. A bus would be faster even if it had to use local streets. Or maybe not


            NIce map of the route a train would take. It squiggles all over downtown. If you use a very liberal concept of downtown.

            Unless you spend a lot of money it’s class 2 track between Syracuse and Binghamton. Freight doesn’t care if it toddles along at 25mph. Passengers do.

            Click to access RailFinalReport2003-04.pdf

            From PDF page 19 of the report

            This line consists of jointed rail for its entire length, and is FRA Class 2 track.
            Maximum speeds for the Syracuse Main Line are 25 MPH for freights, and 30 MPH for
            passenger trains.

            A bus cruising along I-81 at 65mph is going to be faster than a train.

  3. Steven Harrell

    I agree with Nathaniel, thanks for the detailed analysis, as always.

    Slightly OT, but has anyone done an analysis of which American airports are actually suitable for rail-air transfers from an infrastructure perspective (as opposed to from a market perspective).

    As you mentioned earlier, Philly is the obvious example, but that other USAirways hub in Charlotte is also tantilizingly close to a rail line. A Norfolk Southern line crosses the airport property just north of the N-S runways, about 1000 feet north of Concourse E and parking garages, and about 2500 feet north of the center of the terminal complex. (For comparison, the currently-proposed Dulles Metro station is about 1200 feet from the main terminal and nearest airtrain station; and the “zero-distance” transfer at Shanghai Hongqiao is about 1500-3000 feet)

    That NS line is currently used by Amtrak trains bound for Atlanta, and is a couple, very straight miles west of the proposed SEHSR terminal uptown. Although DC is a bit too far away (I think most of my federal coworkers would rather stick to DCA to CLT to elsewhere), there’s a large swath of tobacco road, from Richmond to Atlanta, that could be one SEHSR ride away from CLT.

    HOWEVER, SEHSR trains will not be very frequent, and– even if you could buy a train-plane through ticket– security and baggage checking will probably have to be at the airport, particularly if you need to rely on shuttle busses to get passangers to the gate. As long as the train station is on the land-side of the connection, passengers will still feel that they need to arrive at the airport a couple hours before takeoff. The train will be another means to get to the airport, but no different than a longer, less-frequent, metro line to the airport, and not a full-fledged leg of a multi-part journey.

    If, however, the airport station was more air-side, like that of Hong Kong’s metro airport express, and ticketing, baggage check, and some aspects of security (i.e. ID checks) are conducted at the in-town train station, then that might be part of a seamless rail-air transfer that is comparable to a plane-plane transfer at a hub airport. I don’t think CLT warrants all that… but perhaps PHL or BWI?

    Are there any American airports that might warrant that kind of infrastructure investment? How do integrated airports/HSR stations like Schipol and FRA handle baggage, security and other things that would be part of a combined air-train ticket?

    • Anon256

      “How do integrated airports/HSR stations like Schipol and FRA handle baggage, security and other things that would be part of a combined air-train ticket?”
      They don’t. The train stations at AMS and FRA are conveniently located but entirely outside security, and I don’t know of any high speed trains offering checked baggage service. For this and other reasons, I don’t know of anywhere where combined air-train tickets are competitive with single-mode tickets, and it’s hard to imagine them being so without major logistical changes to either the air or rail side.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Having them outside of security makes sense. I’m sure the people staffing the airport use the system too. Lots of them work on the unsecured side.

        • Steven Harrell

          I completely agree for metro, regional or commuter rail. I think I read somewhere that the most important reason to build a metro line to Dulles was for the workers, not the travelers. But for an intercity rail to air transfer to be feasible at all (assuming that’s even a worthy goal), either the rail side needs to be very frequent, or the transfer time decreased or, at least, well-timed. I doubt they would be able to have a station inside security, but even if you could check your bags *at the airport* more than 2 hours before you fly at least some intercity rail to air transfers might be more achievable. Spending a couple hours at CLT behind security is a breeze compared to waiting an hour at CLT *outside* of security before you can even check your bags… (and that’s after the hour-long, two-bus ride from the Amtrak station). I lucked out- I was in the Navy so I got to check my bags a little early- but normally that would have sucked.

          At any rate, it was definitely wrong for me to compare Hong Kong to virtually any other city on the planet. It isn’t often that cities get to build not only a new, sealed rail system to the airport, but also the airport, the highway to the airport, the near-island that the airport is built on, and most of the land the line travels on/under- including the prime downtown land the in-town station occupies- all at the same time, and all from scratch. That allows a whole new level of comprehensive planning…

      • mulad

        What size of baggage do high-speed services allow? In the US, Amtrak generally allows carry-ons up to the size at which air carriers would start charging extra for oversized checked bags.

        • Andre Lot

          Usually is the “as much as you can carry alone without help”. Spain has x-ray stations, though, where your luggage must pass through. They have some size limitations, not extraordinarily restrictive though.

          The issue of luggage does indeed become a problem on trips where you have a lot of tourists and few business travelers and the luggage rack in the vestibule and the overhead racks become mostly full and then some people don’t have a place to fit their bigger suitcases.

      • Max Wyss

        In Switzerland, there are a few places where you can check in to your flight at the railroad station, including your baggage (Fly baggage is or used to be the brand name for this service). This checked-in baggage gets transported on palettes, sealed with plastic wrap, and it gets unloaded at the Zürich or Genève airport station and directly forwarded to the airport’s baggage system. This works for most destinations, but because of (insert your adjectives here) regulations by the US, destinations in the US are excluded from that service.

    • DingDong

      Also off-topic, but Amtrak has long offered code-shares with Continental (now United) to EWR. Nothing has been worse-marketed than this, because it’s actually a reasonably convenient way to get from New Haven (ZVE) or Philly (ZFV) to a major airport, despite the relatively few trains that stop both at NHV and EWR. My question would be: why has the marketing been so lame, but I’m sure the answer will be something like “because it’s Amtrak.” But it’s also Continental/United too and Amtrak is bad at many things but their marketing is relatively competent.

      • Adirondacker12800

        and they charge you for the fully refundable fly anytime fare. Last time I looked anyway.

    • Alon Levy

      I wrote a reply, but it got killed by hitting Escape in the blog-owner quick-reply box. Thank you, WordPress.

      Existing HSR-air connections are entirely landside. There’s no point clearing an airside train when most ridership is not airport-bound. CDG has 3 million annual TGV riders. The busiest of the lines connecting to it, the LGV Sud-Est, has 30 million. Even the trains that serve the airport are not just for airport traffic, but also for Eurodisney and Lyon- and Marseille-Lille traffic. So at constrained stations, i.e. all of them, there’s no point having this extra infrastructure. Even Frankfurt, which has an exceptionally high HSR mode share for access, does everything landside.

      You’re completely right that Charlotte should get an airport stop, in addition to a city stop. I’d add Philadelphia (PHL), Baltimore (BWI), Washington (National), New York (JFK), and Atlanta (Hartsfield) to the list. Newark is a problem – the station competes with the more important Newark Penn for passengers, and on top of that because of commuter rail capacity issues intercity trains should, and to a large extent already do, use the inner tracks and skip the airport. Ideally PATH would’ve been extended to the airport, but instead Port Authority built a monorail.

      In Atlanta, extending to the airport can actually save money, because there’s more room to turn trains at or near Hartsfield than at Five Points or any other reasonable downtown station location. (Peachtree is neither reasonable nor downtown). 20 km of rail on an existing ROW, even in a city, is probably cheaper than a larger Five Points station, besides the fact that Hartsfield could well lie on a line to the south and/or west.

      • Adirondacker12800

        What compelling destination does BWI serve that isn’t already served by Philadelphia or the New York City airports? Since it’s practically on top of the railroad it makes sense to have a station there but it’s never going to be a big draw – taking the train from Trenton to BWI when EWR and PHL are closer. What compelling destination does JFK serve that isn’t already served by BWI, PHL and EWR? What destinations does PHL or BWI serve that someone in New Haven can’t get at EWR. Or someone in Hartford can’t get from Hartford?

        The people movers at JFK and EWR exist to get the parking lot, car rental and hotel shuttles out of the terminals in addition to inter-terminal travel They also serve as remote kiss-n-rides. There will always be people movers at Newark and JFK, PATH or intercity rail can’t replace their usefulness. Extending PATH to EWR railroad station means you have a two seat ride to Wall Street the country’s third largest employment center. On mostly empty trains between Penn Station and the airport. Extending the people mover to Penn Station Newark means you have a two seat ride to Wall Street too. And a two seat ride to all the buses that serve Penn Station. Newark Airport is Newark’s biggest employment center, might be useful to have a short bus ride to Penn Station to the people mover for people who work at the airport. Extend the people mover to Penn Station and ….. you don’t need the Newark Airport Railroad Station any more.

        Since you can almost spit at the tracks from National/Reagan that might make sense. JFK? .. change at Jamaica to Airtrain like you would change at Newark to Airtrain. SEPTA service to PHL is an oversized people mover. Change at 30th Street to SEPTA.

        • Alon Levy

          Yeah, JFK would require changing to the AirTrain at Jamaica, but a fair number of people already do that. It’s not the most convenient for idiots who fly with 5 pieces of luggage, but for everyone else, it’s doable. (And by the way, even with 5 pieces of luggage it’s possible to board a train in under a minute if you’re prepared ahead of time.)

          The main reason for PHL is just that it’s straighter to go via the Airport Line and then the freight line than via the Wilmington Line. Since there are neither stations between Eastwick and 30th Street nor reasons to build any, it raises the possibility of downgrading the Airport Line to a frequent shuttle from Eastwick. That said, the cost per minute saved may well be too high, and it might be just better to raise Airport Line frequency. BWI is already on the line, and is more convenient for people in Baltimore and Wilmington; it’s less convenient for people in Washington than National, but National doesn’t have long-distance or international traffic.

          In general, the reason you’d want to serve more than one airport is that you want to spread traffic around. Most long-distance international traffic leaves out of JFK, or sometimes Newark. BWI and Philadelphia have some, but far less. But you don’t want to concentrate everything in the New York airspace. On top of that, not all airlines serve all airports, so making it easier to access multiple airports can open areas up to more competition, e.g. letting people in Philadelphia use airlines other than US.

          The Newark/EWR issue is more than just HSR traffic, yes. Extending the people mover to Penn Station and killing the existing airport station is one possibility, yes. PATH is another. It boils down entirely to what’s cheaper per rider, I think, and maybe also whether you want an infill station at South Street. (Why not? If Jersey City has 4 rapid transit stations, Newark can surely have 2 ex-airport.) Ideally they would’ve just extended PATH to airport grounds, instead of building the people mover, but it’s too late now.

          • Alex B.

            One challenge in using PHL or BWI as relief valves for international air traffic is that international traffic seems to cluster at certain airports. JFK is one example, but I don’t know that PHL or BWI would be good relievers. For BWI at least, it’s Dulles that’s rapidly expanding International destinations – that’s their main competition. BWI currently only has British Airways service to Heathrow and a seasonal flight to Frankfurt – all other international traffic is to the Caribbean or Canada.

            Given the strength of the DC market for that kind of travel, I would expect that trend to continue – IAD will be the international hub for the region, and I don’t think adding a fast train connection to BWI would substantially change that.

            I think the same thing could be said of PHL.

            Now, both airports could easily shift into roles serving longer distance domestic flights. I suppose there’s also the airline vs. airline hubbing competition serving different markets. BWI is predominantly Southwest traffic these days. US Air has a large presence at DCA, and I wonder what happens to that if they merge with American. That’s probably the easiest way for an airport to beef up its traffic.

        • Adirondacker12800

          But most traffic isn’t international. If you want to fly from the East Coast to most domestic destinations there are frequent non stop flights from one of the airports closer to home. Or a flight to hub airport at some distance and change of planes that makes taking an hour train ride just as much of a pain. Not that there’s going to be a non stop at the airport you are taking the train to, just a different hub airport in the Midwest or Southeast.

          If you make people change at Eastwick all of the people who have one seat rides to 30th Street have to change trains at 30th Street and again at Eastwick. Why would SEPTA do that? Why would suburban Philadelphians tolerate it?

          National/Reagan doesn’t have long distance flights because the airlines can make more money gouging people with higher fares to be able to fly into National instead of Dulles or BWI.

          Wilmington is 20 miles from PHL and 80 miles from BWI. Which one is more convenient? Consider that there’s low fare SEPTA service to Eastwick versus high fare Amtrak service to BWI. And that if you want to go someplace other than downtown Wilmington there is no Amtrak service and not likely to be any Amtrak service any time in the future.

          • Anonymous

            I’m pretty sure it has more to do with the perimiter rules. Every time there’s a slot availability, airlines who do substantial long-haul business (US Airways, Virgin America, Southwest) line up and beg for an exemption to the perimiter rule. If it were lifted Dulles would probably survive and BWI definitely would.

      • Nathanael

        “You’re completely right that Charlotte should get an airport stop, in addition to a city stop.”

        Given the extraordinary amount of time and money it’s going to take to get the city stop in Charlotte, I don’t think people are going to be thinking about this for a while.

        But looking at it, it would be genuinely easy, wouldn’t it? The planned maintenance base location (between the airport and downtown) means that the trains would have to reverse back along that segment of track, and NS would probably demand double-tracking, but it would still be remarkably straightforward given the track location.

        Atlanta — ROW to Hartsfield Airport looks tight. Roads on all sides, it’s already used by MARTA *and* there’s a large active freight yard. Could be quite difficult.

        • BruceMcF

          Yes: do it where its easiest. If demand shows up for the use of the rail as a spoke in a hub and spoke system, the flights will be there to serve that demand.

          Would it be possible in Atlanta for through routes to connect with MARTA cross platform somewhere along the airport line, and terminating routes to run through on the MARTA line to the airport?

    • Anonymous

      “has anyone done an analysis of which American airports are actually suitable for rail-air transfers from an infrastructure perspective”
      San Diego’s airport might be- the Amtrak/Coaster commuter rail tracks (owned by BNSF but they only run down there at night) as well as the San Diego Trolley more or less directly parallel Pacific Highway near the airport. There is a plan to do away with the three existing terminals (two primary terminals and a smaller “commuter terminal” which houses the puddle jumpers up to LAX) and replace them with a larger terminal on Pacific Highway which would be part of an intermodal facility at which buses, the Trolley, commuter rail, Surfliners and HSR would stop. I imagine most HSR trains would bypass it, but this could make SAN a more feasible alternative for Orange and Riverside Counties – there’s more diverse service out of SAN than ONT or SNA (for example, the only transcon from SNA is a United flight to Newark, and there’s been no transcontinental service – unless Chicago counts – from ONT since JetBlue left; there’s some intercontinental service to London and Tokyo from SAN as well.)

  4. Adirondacker12800

    More speculatively, good transit access to airports – including commuter rail through-running to allow easy travel from New Jersey and Westchester to JFK and from Long Island to Newark – could reduce the difference between Newark and JFK for the average traveler.

    Meh. In decades of flying I’ve taken two domestic round trips out of JFK and one out of LaGuardia. All three times it was because the fare from Queens was radically lower. Two of the inbound flights were delayed and I collected my baggage just as rush hour was starting. So the option then became the bus to the subway to PATH instead of a cab to the World Trade Center. .. though there was that flight that had multiple delays and eventually had me changing planes in Philadelphia. The Newark-Philadelphia trip took 14 hours. And I very nearly missed my connection in Philadelphia because the flight to Philadelphia was delayed. A firm and assertive “You are getting me on that plane AREN’T you” as the agent was about to flip the destination sign got me on the plane.

    There are few destinations that cannot be reached from Newark. Few that cannot be reached from JFK. Meh. Long Island to Newark means you pass right by Airtrain when you pass through Jamaica, meh. If you are using a NEC or NJCL train you pass right by AIrtrain in Newark. The only thing that works reasonably well is New Haven line to Newark. I wonder what the numbers are for New Haven-EWR, Stamford-EWR and New Rochelle-EWR. Probably, meh.

  5. Adirondacker12800

    …O&D isn’t the whole picture. Build HSR and instead of flying every hour between Hartford and LGA it will drop to once every two hours. The people in Hartford who are flying to LGA to get BWI will be on the train to get to Baltimore. Or the train to get to New Carolltown. Someone someplace has the numbers for airport O&D traffic and how many people are going to the airport, by plane, to change planes…. If you can trounce the of Albany-Philadelphia and Hartford-Baltimore etc. .. you reduce flights too. And you cut the heart out of the puddle jumpers..

  6. Keep Houston Houston

    To ordinary travelers the choice of airline doesn’t matter too much

    This is 100% wrong. I will drive two hours to fly Southwest, versus flying US Air out of my local airport, because where US Air has a 29″ seat pitch, Southwest is 31-33″ and you have a fighting chance of grabbing a bulkhead seat.

    Everyone I know who doesn’t share my preference for Herb’s Flying Bus hews to whatever airline they have the most miles accumulated on, typically AA or United/Continental. But in all cases there is a very specific preference and it would take a price differential on the order of 20% or more to get them to consider switching. I don’t even price compare at all.

    • Alon Levy

      Could be that the people I know either don’t travel often enough to have miles accumulated or don’t have a choice (for example, if you live in Jersey, you fly Continental United). I always thought frequent travelers have miles in all three alliances, but again it could be extrapolation from people who mostly fly internationally and can’t really be loyal to one airline.

      • Adirondacker12800

        ….if the majority of people didn’t compare on price the airlines would be making money hand over fist….

        • Keep Houston Houston

          Instead, they race to the bottom with cramped seats and “gotcha” fees and leave people like me to say “screw it, I like legroom and checked baggage.”

          • Adirondacker12800

            most people aren’t willing to drive to an airport that is as distant, in terms of travel time, as it to just fly to their destination from an airport that’s closer, cramped legs and pay-per-bag luggage and all.

          • Keep Houston Houston

            Yeah, I’m an outlier. But the almost universal tendency of my friends and relatives to hew to one particular airline based on mileage club membership… well that might be an outlier too, but it’s at least a bigger one.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Airport Plaid Stamps? that’s evidence that all of the airlines are equally bad, measured by many metrics and people with a hint of frugality base their decisions on how much the airline is willing to discount services sometime in the future.

      • Nathanael

        We “weren’t loyal” internationally… but by contrast we were “captive” (starting in a small city, only one reliable carrier) domestically. It rarely made sense to switch carriers mid-journey. So there’s another reason people won’t take a different carrier: small destinations are mostly captive one-carrier markets.

        We don’t fly any more, of course.

  7. mdahmus

    What’s truly odious is that anybody ever flies to New York from a seemingly major market on something like a regional jet, yet it happens. The Austin->Newark Continental (now United) flight is on a regional jet (or was, last time I flew it before abandoning it in disgust) – this is an abysmal misuse of resources that only happens because the airline mostly pays by weight for takeoffs and landing and very little for the time they tie up the runway and airspace.

  8. Tom B

    What about a REALLY fast (HSR fast) service to Islip? say, under 1/2 hour, even 20 min. from Penn Station. surely that would relieve JFK, LGA and Newark.

    • Alon Levy

      Not enough demand for HSR that way. Ronkonkoma is not Boston or Washington.

      That said, there is enough demand for a reasonable express train. A 160 km/h train making limited stops would do Ronkonkoma-Manhattan in about 40 minutes.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Why go to Islip when you can get a similarly priced flight out of Newark, LaGuardia or JLK? Without the hour long ride from Jamaica? Islip is a wonderful thing for people who live in eastern Nassau or Suffolk. Just like White Plains is a wonderful thing for people who live in Westchester or Greenwich.

        • Anon256

          Flights from an expanded ISP would be significantly cheaper than flights from the three close airports, the same way flights from STN are significantly cheaper than flights from LHR, HHN is cheaper than FRA, CIA is cheaper than FCO, etc.

          Slots at JFK/EWR/LGA are underpriced, and a plan to charge more by auctioning them was defeated. Such proposals would have a better chance politically if more viable alternative airports were available.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Go ahead price flights between Islip and Florida. Or White Plains and Florida. Or Stewart and Florida.

          • Tom B

            The idea of taking a 40 minute train direct from Penn Station to a moving walkway to your gate at Islip sounds more genteel that a cab ride through unpredictable traffic to LGA or JFK (not to mention the sisyphian task of catching a cab in midtown during rush hour), or even waiting 5 minutes to transfer to an airtrain. So easy. Could be the best kept secret since teeterboro.

          • Adirondacker12800

            40 minutes on the train gets you halfway to Ronkonkoma, the station closest to the airport.

            Click to access RonkonkomaBranch.pdf

            The people who use Teterboro are very very happy with Teterboro since Teterboro doesn’t have any commercial service.

          • tberesfo

            As per the comment above by Alon, a 160MPH express train running to islip would arrive in 40 minutes from penn station. In the future, greater demand could warrant true high speed rail which could arrive at islip in under half an hour. Pardon my teeterboro comment, which was a bit of rhetorical flourish. Nevertheless, I imagine many executives might prefer a high speed trip to the airport in half hour w/o traffic and no transfers.

          • Alon Levy

            *160 km/h express train, i.e. 100 mph.

            The problem with higher speeds, or cutting the major stops like Jamaica and Hicksville, is that any capacity you add is more useful for commuters than for intercity travel. So you have to run intercity trains at express commuter rail speeds – you can push 200, but the benefit over 160 is not that big for the modification the rolling stock, electrification, signaling, etc. would require.

          • Adirondacker12800

            The 5:41 makes it’s first stop in Hicksville and arrives in Central Islip, the stop before Ronkonkoma at 6:42.
            100 mph express train from Penn Station to Ronkonkoma would derail. Trains that derail predictably have very low ridership. If you want to take a train from Penn Station to Ronkonkoma and do it in 40 minutes you aren’t using the LIRR to get there.

          • tberesfo

            Alon, thanks for the correction it is 160kph. I dont have any evidence from Adirondacker that the train would derail. Even so, I have to assume that the right combination of political will and funding would enable upgrades for a modest 160kph train to ronkonkoma. I look at what rhode island has accomplished with extending the mbta to TF green (albeit a slow commuter line) and understand that direct rail-to-air links has real appeal. Even at slow speeds, ridership to TF Green doubled last year from 100 alightments a day to over 200 according to the projo yesterday. If nothing else, a rail-to-air link could be a strategic alibi for a speedier commuter train from ronkonkoma and points in between, which can only be a good thing if your goal is transit oriented development along that corridor, thereby driving even more rail demand. Please someone give me some thoughtful feedback on this one.

            Lastly, it seems to me that a broader view of positioning islip as a competitor to the NYC airports might leverage the latter into coming up with planning for better access in the long term through competition. I DO know that we can all agree that access to the nyc airports is generally crappy. One only has to fly into Copenhagen to understand this.

          • Alon Levy

            Yeah, the T. F. Green extension is not an example of how to do anything. Really low speeds despite long stop spacing, no service to actual neighborhoods or to people in Cranston and Warwick (Warwick’s center is not at the airport), no integration with local transit, terrible frequency, enormous cost ($330 million for two stations).

            The advantage of Ronkonkoma is that the main concrete pouring that’s needed to raise speed, four-tracking the Main Line, has to be done anyway to prop up frequency for regular commuters. Once the infrastructure is there, the question is just what express patterns to use. Running intercity trains with catenary (very cheap by the standards of other necessary improvement projects) can justify a Penn Station-Sunnyside-Jamaica-Mineola-Hicksville-Ronkonkoma express pattern, as opposed to, say, commuter trains that run local east of Hicksville. But that comes entirely from the fact that the Main Line is very busy and there’s tons of existing ridership at Ronkonkoma and Hicksville; it’s not just an air-rail link, which by itself doesn’t have enough potential ridership to justify any of this.

          • Adirondacker12800

            I dont have any evidence from Adirondacker that the train would derail.

            And you don’t have any evidence it wouldn’t. I suspect the super express train to Ronkonkoma takes as long as it does is because the LIRR doesn’t run trains at 100 MPH through curves that have lower speed limits – an aversion to having trains derail.

          • Alon Levy

            The Main Line is dead straight with a few short transition curves, of which the worst is right next to Hicksville and the second worst right next to Jamaica.

            The schedules are just extremely padded. Metro-North is so padded that when everything goes alright your New Haven express train can depart Stamford on time and arrive at Grand Central 10 minutes ahead of schedule.

          • Anonymous

            It all depends on whether or not airlines would decide it makes sense for them to expand to ISP. It’s no EWR, BWI or even PVD – a handful of Southwest flights plus a US Airways Express flight to Philadelphia. There would have to be a substantial shift (such as JetBlue sending some Florida flights over there to relieve their existing flights to the big three and a few more flights to Chicago or another Midwest) for this to make sense

    • Alex B.

      A few hypotheses for the difference:

      1. Japan has fewer airport pairs, concentrating traffic on a few routes. The U.S. domestic air traffic system is much more poly centric.

      2. Japan has fewer airlines, nor is the domestic hub system as prevalent as it is in the US. More competition from US carriers demands frequent service to feed domestic hubs, more frequent service requires smaller planes in order to get the appropriate load factors to operate those flights profitably. Perhaps this will change somewhat with US airline consolidation, now that we’ve gone from 6 legacy air carriers to three (plus southwest).

      3. Wide body planes can take longer to ‘turn’ from one flight to another. The boarding process can take a while for a 350 seat plane. That’s OK if you’re flying long haul, but more problematic for shorter trips.

      As a note, the most common place you see wide bodies on domestic routes today will be for shuttle purposes, often between a carrier’s hubs. For example, you will occasionally catch a 777 on United from Dulles to Chicago or SFO, mostly as a repositioning move for the aircraft to get ready for a long haul international flight.

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