Flying to Europe This summer can be hell.  Here’s how to make it better

Flying to Europe This summer can be hell. Here’s how to make it better

Flying to Europe This summer can be hell.  Here’s how to make it better

Airports echo with the fury of passengers who discover their flight has been canceled or delayed or who wait hours for luggage to reach the carousel. Ticket prices rise as fuel costs do the same. The reputation of airlines and the experience at airports has never been this bad. Yet Americans’ hunger to return to Europe this summer after two years of pandemic containment is astonishingly insatiable.

Indeed, a U.S. carrier, United, is offering nearly half a million more seats across the pond this summer than at its pre-pandemic peak of 2019. Plus, they’re adding more flights to more cities than ever before. And that was before the US finally dropped out and passengers from Europe had to undergo a negative COVID test before flying, a decision that will fill many more seats almost overnight.

European airlines are also adding flights. Analysis by Craig Jenks, of New York-based Airline/Aircraft Projects, shows that Aer Lingus is ramping up flights between Dublin and Orlando from four to seven a week, as well as new daily flights between Manchester, UK and New York. Air France introduced three flights a week from Paris to Denver, and British Airways has four new flights a week from London to Portland, Oregon. There are also plenty of new flights to other non-coastal cities, such as Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver, Dallas, and Austin.

In fact, the route map of flights between the US and Europe has become so fluid and dynamic that planning a European vacation is much more challenging, especially if you want to find the most relaxing and sybaritic flight over the pond, given the chaos that can ensue. lie down on your path before reaching your seat.

Therefore, the first thing to remember is that you do not just choose a seat. You also choose an airplane. If you’re in a cabin between 7 and 11 hours, cabin comfort will depend on the age of the plane, where you’re departing and how far you’re flying in Europe.

Nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century, only a handful of planes have optimal, state-of-the-art climate technology in their cabins — exactly the kind of detail that can transform the experience of long-haul flying. That includes increased humidity in the cabin to counteract the physical effects of very dry air; better quality climate control that maintains the same temperatures no matter which part of the cabin you occupy; individually adjustable lighting to aid sleep and better sound insulation to reduce disturbing engine and aerodynamic noise.

There are only three widebody jets that embody these qualities: the Airbus A380 superjumbo; the smaller Airbus A350; and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. They all have a cabin altitude of 6000 feet, meaning the air pressure in the cabin is the equivalent of breathing at that altitude, and the air is more humid, whereas in all older jets the cabin altitude is 8000 feet, where the air is noticeably drier.

dr. Paulo Alves, aerospace medical expert and member of the Aerospace Medical Association Air Transport Medical Committee, told the Daily Beast: “The otherwise healthy passenger should not expect any health problems at the 8,000-foot cabin altitude. However, there are quite a few studies and reports about improved well-being when flying modern jet aircraft, due to lower noise levels, lower vibrations and better space.Of course, the longer the flight, the greater the need for comfort.”

The most common discomfort, says Dr. Alves, is thirst, “not from dehydration, but from dry mouth. Dryness of the eyes is another problem, even people prone to nosebleeds can have an episode accelerated by the humidity.” Proper hydration and the use of eye lubricants are helpful in avoiding discomfort.”

If you fly over the Atlantic on one of the three major US airlines this summer, the number of older aircraft will far outweigh that of the new generation of jets. According to July data provided exclusively to The Daily Beast by Cirium, an aviation analytics company, Delta has operated 212 flights on the A350, versus more than 2,000 flights operated on older jets; United has 651 flights with the 787, compared to more than 2,000 flights with older jets. In contrast, American Airlines operates 1,018 flights, nearly half of its European flights, with the newer jets, either the A350 or the 787.

The oldest of the jets are Boeing 757s and 767s, which average between 22 and 24 years in service and are approaching the point where their maintenance becomes too expensive. American Airlines permanently ditched these two planes from their fleet during the pandemic because their gas-guzzling engines made them costly to operate. The sudden recovery in international flights has left the airline in need of fewer jets than necessary, exacerbated by a delay in delivery of new Boeing 787s due to quality control issues at Boeing. As a result, American has dropped five European routes.

John Grant of global airline data cruncher OAG provided the Daily Beast with new figures showing United is the leader in available seats across the Atlantic this summer, at just over 4 million, up from 3.5 million in 2019 ; Delta is second with 3.6 million, up from 4 million in 2019, and American third with 3.1 million, compared to 3.5 million in 2019.

Frequent business class travelers are generally more aware of cabin climate quality when selecting flights. Vacation travelers are more cost-conscious, but remember that seats in newer jets don’t actually cost more than the equivalent in older ones (they guzzle much less gas, so cost airlines less to operate) and the benefits of better air and climate are in the back of the cabin. as clear as before. Nevertheless, Mike Arnot, an airline industry commentator, says: “Most flyers will not notice the difference in product between an older aircraft and the newest. United have outfitted their older planes with a slick product, Polaris business class, and those seats are packed with people burning their long saved miles for the experience.

British Airways has launched all three new jets deep into its US destinations; it now flies to the UK from 26 cities. It flies the A380 from four hubs, Chicago, Miami, Dallas and Los Angeles, where there is enough demand to fill the 469 seats. (No US carrier has ever bought the superjumbo, and many were permanently grounded at the outbreak of the pandemic, including those of Air France and Lufthansa. But BA remains committed to the goliath for hub-to-hub routes. ) BA flies all the popular 787 Dreamliner from Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburg, Portland, Seattle and Washington Dulles. The larger A350 flies from Austin, Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando and Phoenix.

The strange thing about that list is that it excludes the busiest and most competitive route across the Atlantic, New York to the UK. Before the pandemic, BA made a big splash by introducing the A350 on that route, most notably putting their new business class suites in a head-to-head competition with Virgin Atlantic’s A350 business class cabins on the same route. (With far fewer flights, Virgin Atlantic is pushing its acclaimed Club House business lounge at Heathrow as part of its pure style branding edge.)

But now, in New York, BA has returned to the Boeing 777, the oldest widebody jet in its fleet, with an average age of about 18 years. They have all been upgraded with the same business class suites as the A350 and new cabin lighting, but still have the disadvantage of increased cabin height. It’s not so noticeable on the shorter East Coast-London flights, but it’s starting to be felt on the longer routes where the 777 shares the airline’s gates with the new jets, such as Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, where the flight can take up to 11 hours.

United flies even older jets on long routes. For example, it has four new flights a week from Newark to Dubrovnik, one of Europe’s cheapest destinations due to its spectacular Dalmatian coastal towns. These are flown by Boeing 767s with an average age of 24, and the 4,500-mile flight takes more than nine hours. In the 1980s, the 767 pioneered long-haul flights across the Atlantic, while having only two engines was controversial (three or four-engine jets were considered safer) and now every widebody except the A380 is a twin-jet But these early 767s, although the cabins have also been refurbished, not only are they tired, but compared to newer jets, they are notorious polluters.

Some budget airlines fly over the pond with the latest generation of jets. For example, newcomer Norse Atlantic Airways flies 787 Dreamliners from New York to London (Gatwick), Berlin and Oslo; from Los Angeles to Berlin and Oslo; and from Fort Lauderdale and Orlando to Oslo. In fact, Norse has taken the place of Norwegian Airlines, which stopped flying in the Atlantic during the pandemic because it opened too many routes too quickly and ran out of money. Norse is more cautious because it wants to offer a budget alternative to the old air fares. Given the pressure on all airline and airport services this summer, Norse will likely be judged as much for its reliability as its prices.

But people who can buy maximum comfort always will, and they like to live in their own thin air. That has never been more true than with air travel. The public of a private jet can fly on a new Gulfstream G700 with a cabin height of only 2900 feet while the butler pours a glass of Dom Perignon.