OPINION: To stop or not to stop (over)?

You may have heard that East and Southeast Asian carriers are re-entering the ultra long-haul flight market once again.  You may have thought that such flights from the Asia Pacific have been killed off, but the availability of more fuel-efficient jets has made them more feasible than ever.

world's longest flight
Image Source: Airbus

Cathay Pacific, for instance, will launch a new long-haul flight between Hong Kong and Washington DC in September.  For its part, Singapore Airlines will reinstate its non-stop Singapore-New York flight which it suspended nearly five years ago.  Closer to home, Philippine Airlines will also fly nonstop between Manila to New York not long afterwards.  Given that fuel prices are on the upswing again, it remains to be seen whether these revived ultra long-haul options would outlast their earlier iterations.  



I am not sure about your preferences but for someone like me, I would prefer a stopover.  Given that I have flown several times between the US and the UK in the past two years, I have already gotten used to seven hours being long.  I could not wait to leave the aircraft, stretch, have a proper meal, use WiFi that's faster and cheaper than what's offered onboard, and possibly take a shower.  The last time I travelled between the Philippines and the UK, I used Emirates which meant a stopover at Dubai.  The 7-9-hours on spent each flight was just right.  It was 'short' in the sense that you won't be waiting for very long to breathe not-so stale air and 'long' in the sense that you get to enjoy the full range of a carrier's long-haul products.

Dubai International Airport
Image by hybridace101

There is also one benefit for the airline to do stopovers: extra opportunities to pick passengers up.  This will be of course dependent on existing air service agreements between the countries involved.  As I said, we don't know how profitable these flights will be, but they are in the business of earning as much profits as they could.  A near empty flight to New York does not bode well for their bottom lines.  This is the beauty of PAL's existing Manila-Vancouver-New York service.  The flag carrier is permitted to sell seats for the Vancouver-New York sector.  In case there aren't many passengers going from Manila to New York or vice versa on a particular flight, traffic in the other two sectors would provide a back up source of revenue without having to use another plane.   

Having said that, in order for a stopover to work, there are a few things to consider.  First and foremost is the transit airport itself.  Dubai International Airport has a lot of facilities for passengers.  It is clean and its operations are efficient and passenger-friendly.  The same is true for Changi Airport and Hong Kong Airport.  Even Dublin Airport has the added bonus of pre-clearance for US-bound passengers.  These facilities go a long way to ensuring passengers have a smooth onward journey.

The second consideration is the airline.  Do they make an effort to ensure your connection is smooth?  Do they offer check through passengers and the ability to amend parts of their journey midway (i.e. at the transit airport), even for small items like seat preferences?  Third is your frequent flyer programme.  Given that direct nonstop flights are shorter, you will receive fewer miles.  With a stopover though, you earn miles per segment, which is slightly more.  There is one caveat about this though, if a flight has a stopover at an airport that is not a hub or focus city, then miles will be computed as if a passenger has taken a direct or nonstop flight from origin to destination.    

Now I can understand why sticking it out in a tube at 37,000 feet for extended periods of time to be advantageous.  For one, if you are a business traveller, time is money.  I'm sure they would trade in the additional comforts of transit stopovers to get to their final destination at the quickest possible time.  Nonetheless, carriers are in a race to improve their on-board offerings on such ultra long-haul flights.  In that light, one major thing that PAL lacks on its new planes that would put it at a disadvantage over other carriers is a power outlet for those using their laptops and high-power tablets on economy class.  Some passengers would want to get some work done with their laptops during the lengthy flight.  Others would prefer to use their personal devices rather than the in-house in-flight entertainment (IFE) system especially as PAL's library is not as wide as Emirates'.  The point is that PAL, despite earning the coveted four-star rating from Skytrax, still lacks some facilities to ensure a 15-17-hour flight for passengers that is as enjoyable as what one could experience with its competitors.

When it comes to choosing a nonstop flight, it all boils down to a balance between getting there quickly and getting there a little bit more refreshed from the intermediate stopover.  Here's one more thought: some Manila-based passengers bound for New York fly via Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Doha.  On paper that routing does not make sense because it would take more than 24 hours from take off in Manila to touchdown in New York.  Thus it should mean there must be something about such a routing, and the airline and stopover airport involved, that makes passengers willing to spend extended periods away from their intended destination.

Do you prefer a nonstop flight or a one-stop flight?  We'd like to hear from you.

4 comments:

  1. Speaking of in-seat power I wonder why PAL did not installed AC power outlets on there new tri-class A330 they could have installed 1 per 2 seat since not everyone use them at the same time? As for Emirates there ICE system is considered the best in the world I'm doughful they can compete with that but I agree they need to add additional content on there IFE.

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    Replies
    1. They actually have AC outlets for business and premium economy but they are missing from economy.

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  2. always on direct flights.i hate stop over

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