speedbird52
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How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 9:37 am

A commonly cited reason for the downfall of 747 size aircraft is that filling an aircraft of that size with passengers whilst still charging competitive prices for tickets is just too difficult. The thing is, before the days of flat bed seats, 747s used to carry more passengers, in a market that was smaller than it is now. What changed to make flying 400 passengers around become suddenly difficult to be profitable?
 
krlgarcia01
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 9:46 am

Probably the routes that the 747 have flown before had many stops. An example would be MNL-DMK-KHI-ATH-FRA-LGW when the 747 can easily travel nonstop MNL-LGW. Some passengers disembarked at ATH or FRA, and not need to travel to LGW.
 
77H
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 9:53 am

In the United States market a common cited reason is that airlines have chosen frequency over capacity, responding to consumer demand. Offering 2 NB flights an hour apart for example rather that 1 WB.

Additionally, in the past, airlines often ran WBs with lower LFs but could still be profitable because of lower costs in fuel, etc.

That said, the US3 still operate a sizeable amount of domestic WBs within the ConUS.

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JamesCousins
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 9:54 am

speedbird52 wrote:
A commonly cited reason for the downfall of 747 size aircraft is that filling an aircraft of that size with passengers whilst still charging competitive prices for tickets is just too difficult. The thing is, before the days of flat bed seats, 747s used to carry more passengers, in a market that was smaller than it is now. What changed to make flying 400 passengers around become suddenly difficult to be profitable?


I think the factors vary on a market by market basis, but air travel is much more fragmented than it once was. You've got the rise of LCCs and ULCCs who create more competition for passengers, but ultimately more competition on price has had a major impact - this forces ticket prices down in real terms for all carriers and means airlines have become much more cautious about operating VLAs. Airlines that would have once flown a 747 full in the summer, and at 60% load the rest of the year will simply stick with a smaller 747/A350 sized aircraft because they have to be more competitive on ticket pricing. Compounded with rising fuel costs and many airlines have become very risk averse and I don't blame them given just how many airlines collapse. Deregulation of the industry globally allowed for the entrance of so many new players, if you look at the UK market where you once had a handful of players you've got EasyJet, Ryanair, Wizz Air, Jet2, TUI, Thomas Cook, Virgin, BA, Norwegian, Flybe - as well as all of the European Union carriers(who can fly to or from any EU country, regardless of their home base), all fighting for their share.

Other major factors include the likes of the Bermuda agreements, the Bermuda II agreement allowed only 2 US and 2 UK airlines to compete on UK-US routes - this is why Virgin Atlantic ordered all those A380s years ago, that they later saw sense and cancelled. Imagine a UK-US market with only 4 players, you could fill 380s to the US and back every day of the week.
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 9:55 am

It wasn’t profitable then. Trying not to be sarcastic but you’ve heard of Pan Am and TWA? Most European carriers plus air canada were government owned. Profits didn’t matter to most of them.

But what happened was market fragmentation with more carriers and more hubs flying smaller planes. In the 1980s, AA began flying 767s from Chicago to Europe which hurt PA and TW at JFK tremendously. Looks at all the USA hubs that had trans Atlantic service in 1979 versus 1989. By 1989, even CLT had nonstops to Europe.

In the pacific 747s lasted much longer mostly cuz ETOPs was 120 and that ruled out twins for a long time.

So market fragmentation plus the 747s werent real profitable before anyways which is why PA bought L15s and TWA more L10s

On the domestic side, United in the 1990s and early 2000s flew 744s between hubs mostly on positioning flights but 747s domesticly in the 1970s were a massive financial train wreck except maybe to Hawaii.
Last edited by Bobloblaw on Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
 
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zeke
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 9:57 am

I think they found using the doors was the best way to load and unload them.
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aviationaware
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:02 am

Another factor is that most flights back then were not even close to daily. Many were once a week, some even once a month and most topped out at 3x weekly. That has since changed.
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:04 am

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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:16 am

aviationaware wrote:
Another factor is that most flights back then were not even close to daily. Many were once a week, some even once a month and most topped out at 3x weekly. That has since changed.

True. You could see many B747's in FRA in the 80ies but sometimes only once a week per each operator (e.g. Cameroon Airlines) or Avianca two or three times a week (IIRC), today Avianca flies from/to FRA every day, just as an example.

Furthermore, "in the old days" you usually had only one "part of entrance" for each country. Today, however, you can reach several large cities in China non-stop. i.e. fragmantation.

zeke wrote:
I think they found using the doors was the best way to load and unload them.

:rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl:
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:23 am

N14AZ wrote:
today Avianca flies from/to FRA every day, just as an example.


they are just codesharing on a Lufthansa flight
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:32 am

Back in the old days, Everybody going to Europe from the United States connected thru New York. And that flight from New York made several stops beyond Europe.

There were Fewer flights.

Also, the airlines werent as concerned about load factor. Until 9/11, it wasn’t unusual to board a plane that was half empty. The whole September 11 plot involved half empty planes! Every flight being full to the max is a new phenomenon

Furthermore, the deathknell of four and three-engine aircraft was ETOPs

All of these things transpired over a 30 year period from the mid-80s through 2001
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:40 am

Summarizing what other have said, it's a different business today, some of the game-changers have been

Frequency over capacity
Longer range
ETOPS
Fuel consumption
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 12:04 pm

speedbird52 wrote:
How did airlines fill up large widebodies in the old days?


Non-revs.
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 12:19 pm

speedbird52 wrote:
,,, The thing is, before the days of flat bed seats, 747s used to carry more passengers, in a market that was smaller than it is now.


Interesting analysis, I was under the impression that the way they are packing Y nowadays they would have fewer seats to fill in the old days.

Several airlines and most of the aviation infrastructure were state-owned and subsidized, and both S-words were not bad. Making money on every slot, aircraft movement, and on every passenger was not the primary goal.
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 12:21 pm

Because back then Non stop Long Haul did not exist. It was mainly milk run like MEL-SYD-AKL-NAN-APW-HNL-LAX-SFO-DFW-JFK

There was limited competition/governments regulating bilateral rights. Like Bermuda 2 only 2 UK/US carriers could fly to LHR or the bilateral stated only limited service and having only 1 carrier each side. Or the frequency each week. At times mainline routes we took for granted were only flown once or twice a week. For instance LAX-SYD was only like once a week non stop on Pan Am or they would have different stops on the way to Sydney allowing a certain stop served that day of the week.

Like United cutting from Daily to 3x week on LAX-SYD everyone on here went mad. That was normal back in the 70s...
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 12:29 pm

OlafW wrote:
N14AZ wrote:
today Avianca flies from/to FRA every day, just as an example.


they are just codesharing on a Lufthansa flight

Okay, thanks for the correction. I will look for a better example.
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 12:39 pm

There was also freight. Look into the Eastern A300 runs with no luggage allowed.
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 1:04 pm

A variation on the range argument is that large aircraft used to be the only aircraft with long range. If you wanted to make the range worked, you needed the side.

Economically class cost more than what business class costs now in relive terms.
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 1:20 pm

upperdeckfan wrote:
Summarizing what other have said, it's a different business today, some of the game-changers have been

Frequency over capacity
Longer range
ETOPS
Fuel consumption

Fragmentation.

In the days of old, as a New Englander, pretty much every flight I made would involve a wide body leaving a NYC airport.

My first ever business trip was in the mid 80s NYC-DFW-AUS with NYC-DFW on a DC-10 wide body.

Now there are plentiful NYC-AUS non-stops on narrow bodies instead.
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 1:47 pm

They didn't unless it was HNL or LHR or similar tier business cities
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 1:50 pm

sargester wrote:
They didn't unless it was HNL or LHR or similar tier business cities


HNL is a business city?
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32andBelow
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 2:12 pm

They didn’t fill them tho. Where is proof that they filled them? Everything I’ve read says the load factors were much lower. And any old timer in the industry will tell you how easy it was to non rev back then. They used to even offer cheap
Walk up tickets since flights were so empty n
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 2:32 pm

Load factors in the regulated era were often in the 50% range. Even in the ‘80s, LF was normally in the 65%-75% range. It’s only in the last decade where it was normal for system LF to be above 85%.
 
Armadillo1
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 2:39 pm

when there is overbooking?
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 2:53 pm

aviationaware wrote:
Another factor is that most flights back then were not even close to daily. Many were once a week, some even once a month and most topped out at 3x weekly. That has since changed.


Yes, in the early 70s even hot markets only saw a few VLA flights a day, United had only one or two daily 747 flights to Hawaii even. We had a mechanical in Honolulu with a 747 flight in 1974 and there were no other flights that day DC8 or 747. Hard to imagine now.
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FlyingElvii
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 3:17 pm

In the US, 747 international ops were a prestige thing, even if they lost money. Many TW, NW, and PA international routes were govt. subsidized to “Show the Flag” in South America, Africa, and Asia. When Dereg came along, frequencies increased, making them much harder to fill on domestic runs.

747 ops contributed greatly to the demise of several airlines, such as PeoplExpress, the original America West and arguably Branniff. Dc-10’s to Air Florida, National, and Western’s financial issues.
Another example, Tower ran all 747 low fare ops to Florida, the west coast, and Israel for several years, filling the planes, but when they had tech issues it created major nightmares for pax and airports. Xcl a plane with 160 on it, and no one cares. Cancel one with 560 on it, and the local TV stations are getting dozens of calls.

Obviously this is sched Services. Several charter operators ran them successfully for years.
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 3:24 pm

hOMSaR wrote:
sargester wrote:
They didn't unless it was HNL or LHR or similar tier business cities


HNL is a business city?


Sorry forgot to put my comma in HNL, or LHR similar tier business cities
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 3:29 pm

The lack of smaller aircraft with similar range to the large widebodies was another reason they could be successful, if utilized correctly. From the 1970s until the late 2000s, aircraft design combined with ETOPS restrictions meant the 747-200B and 747-400 in particular had no real competition on many routes and this contributed to these aircraft programs being the most profitable for Boeing. Once the 777-300ER could nearly match the range and capacity of the 747-400, it became Boeing's most profitable aircraft program.
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 3:30 pm

There's lots of reasons, firstly the 1st generation wide bodies were around twice the size of their predecessors, there was nothing between a 707 or DC8 and a widebody, if you went new yuo went big, and potentially accepted a lower load factor
The high bypass engines were far better on fuel, which made a lower load factor compared to a 707 on the same route more palatable.
Some operators had combis resulting in less seats
Many routes were either operated infrequently or had tag on's. Most major airlines try to avoid both of these now as they aren't popular with passengers.
Most routes were negotiated via bilateral agreements, often only one carrier from each end of the route was allowed to operate on it, with both having the same number of flights, resulting in little competition and higher fares.
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 3:36 pm

Also, start of mass travel, even ahead of dereg in the late 70s. A lot of "grey market" stuff, via charter groups that used regular airlines. For example, some social group sells 300 tickets for a week in the US with hotel, during low season. The airline closest agrees, as it fills seats. Everybody is happy, and the ticks are technically legit, just not full price.. It was the theme of a lot of IATA gatherings in the 70s, when overcapacity hit with the first wide-bodies. Not all airlines were subsidized, but all enjoyed the regulated market. Swissair relied on its two 742s for the ZRH and GVA to JFK "milk runs" (financial centers + UN centers all linked, at a time when PanAm and TWA were down gauging). A retired SR pilot told me the rate of usage (14 to 16 hours per day) made these two planes the cash cows of the company.
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 3:41 pm

Also, today (2010s) in Europe, a lot of people are travelling by train between cities. A lot more people use high speed trains, than 30 or 40 years ago. For example, back in the 70s and 80s there wasn't a tunnel under the Channel (oh well yes it was under study in the 80s) so it was a lot easier for the airlines to fill widebodies on flights multiple times daily between CDG and LHR. Remember Air France with the A300 and British Airways with the L-1011. Those days are gone.
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 3:42 pm

Also, start of mass travel, even ahead of dereg in the late 70s. A lot of "grey market" stuff, via charter groups that used regular airlines. For example, some social group sells 300 tickets for a week in the US with hotel, during low season. The airline closest agrees, as it fills seats. Everybody is happy, and the ticks are technically legit, just not full price.. It was the theme of a lot of IATA gatherings in the 70s, when overcapacity hit with the first wide-bodies. Not all airlines were subsidized, but all enjoyed the regulated market. Swissair relied on its two 742s for the ZRH and GVA to JFK "milk runs" (financial centers + UN centers all linked, at a time when PanAm and TWA were down gauging). A retired SR pilot told me the rate of usage (14 to 16 hours per day) made these two planes the cash cows of the company.
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 3:44 pm

Fares were higher and load factors far lower.

And much money was lost.
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JayinKitsap
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 4:51 pm

lightsaber wrote:
Fares were higher and load factors far lower.

And much money was lost.
Lightsaber


How to become a millionaire in aviation, start with $20 million watch it disappear.

The 744 entered service in 1989 - the total produced of the 747 then was around 750.
The DC-10 had 446 by 1989, the MD-11 had not started at that time.
The L-1011 produced 249
The A-340 arrived in 93.
So a total of 1,092 long range widebodies in 1989. Today I believe there are around 4,000 widebodies in service that do long range.

My point is that the capacity was like 1/4 of now back then, but still far lower load factors. The fares then are close to today's fares, with the money being more valuable.
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 4:54 pm

speedbird52 wrote:
A commonly cited reason for the downfall of 747 size aircraft is that filling an aircraft of that size with passengers whilst still charging competitive prices for tickets is just too difficult. The thing is, before the days of flat bed seats, 747s used to carry more passengers, in a market that was smaller than it is now. What changed to make flying 400 passengers around become suddenly difficult to be profitable?


Deregulation.
B727, B737, B747, B757, B767, B777, B787, DC9/MD80, DC10, MD11
A319, A320, A321, A340 (surprisingly no A330 yet)
L1011
ATR77, CRJ200, CRJ700, E145, E170, E175
 
Prost
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 4:55 pm

Ticket consolidators were a big part of it. If you went to Chinatown here in Seattle, travel agents had signs in the windows for RT SEA-MNL for $350 in the early 1990s, cheaper at certain times of the year.
 
77H
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 5:12 pm

hOMSaR wrote:
sargester wrote:
They didn't unless it was HNL or LHR or similar tier business cities


HNL is a business city?


Of course! Haven’t you heard of the Pan Pacific Stock Exchange rivaling the NYSE ? Not to mention all the tech companies flocking here... :duck:

77H
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 8:17 pm

Back in the 70s Delta used to fly DC-10s and L-1011s into CAE and Eastern flew A-300s. They were usually full or very close to it. Instead of 9 or 10 daily flights between CAE and ATL or CAE and CLT there may have bee 4 or 5. This was also before people would drive 100 to 150 miles for cheaper fares, so a larger portion of the market was served by the home airport. The wide bodies were used for cleanup flights and early morning departures. This got lots of people to ATL and CLT for the first push. Also, the airlines liked to use outstations for RON because they were cheaper and more available. I took many an L-1011, Stretch 8 and 757 out of CAE in those days.
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 8:28 pm

But then the 77W IS a large widebody, especially with the cramped 10Y seating, and the 779 will be larger still. It's not as if all 747s have been replaced with A330s and 787s
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Q
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 8:32 pm

A long time ago, I can't image that United 747-200 flew Chicago to Hilo daily non stop! Today is none! Maybe cheaper fares and hotel cheap in Hawaii than today expenses.

Q
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 8:45 pm

speedbird52 wrote:
A commonly cited reason for the downfall of 747 size aircraft is that filling an aircraft of that size with passengers whilst still charging competitive prices for tickets is just too difficult. The thing is, before the days of flat bed seats, 747s used to carry more passengers, in a market that was smaller than it is now. What changed to make flying 400 passengers around become suddenly difficult to be profitable?


I didn't see it mentioned, but the oil embargo in 1973 and 1979, coupled with deregulation was the ultimate catastrophe for many commercially viable widebody services. Prices became market based, oil prices spiked, passenger numbers tanked, and commercially driven airlines couldn't compete with the government backed carriers.

Unless you needed the range, there was no point flying shorter segments with widebody aircraft.
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 8:47 pm

KFLLCFII wrote:
speedbird52 wrote:
How did airlines fill up large widebodies in the old days?


Non-revs.


I remember being a non-rev on Braniff's 747 from DFW to HNL. One time I remember 65 non-revs on the flight.
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 8:50 pm

my 1srt widebody experience was in June 1974 SEA-ORD-CLE on Northwest Orient,. There were 28 onboard out of SEA
 
Rdh3e
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 8:55 pm

In 1990 the average load factor on a Domestic US flight was 59%. In 2018 it was 84%. The question is a false premise because they never did "fill up the widebodies in the old days".
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 9:05 pm

deltadc9 wrote:
aviationaware wrote:
Another factor is that most flights back then were not even close to daily. Many were once a week, some even once a month and most topped out at 3x weekly. That has since changed.


Yes, in the early 70s even hot markets only saw a few VLA flights a day, United had only one or two daily 747 flights to Hawaii even. We had a mechanical in Honolulu with a 747 flight in 1974 and there were no other flights that day DC8 or 747. Hard to imagine now.


Hmm, was curious about your comment. On this 1976 United Airlines timetable page http://www.departedflights.com/UA061176p42.html for Honolulu it shows 10-12 747 flights a day. A 1972 timetable on the same website shows 8+ wide bodies a day from HNL. Was there a draw-down in 1974? A strike perhaps?

Thx MA
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 9:35 pm

Another thing that I'm surprised no one has mentioned is that the narrowbodies of the '70's did not have the range that they do today. The old 737-200s and 727-200s could only fly about 1400 miles if full. Thus, if an airline wanted to do a trans-con or something almost trans-con, you needed a DC10 or L1011. SEA-ATL was an L1011 flight on Eastern and Delta back then, and only a couple times a day. Same goes for something like DTW-LAX. Today, you have multiple daily flights on A320s and 738's that have plenty of range.
 
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 9:42 pm

Rdh3e wrote:
In 1990 the average load factor on a Domestic US flight was 59%. In 2018 it was 84%. The question is a false premise because they never did "fill up the widebodies in the old days".


Exactly this. The higher yield back then offset the lower load factors.
 
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DLHAM
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:56 pm

As far as I know loadfactors back in the days were much lower on average than they are today. Am I right?
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LH707330
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:57 pm

IAHWorldflyer wrote:
Another thing that I'm surprised no one has mentioned is that the narrowbodies of the '70's did not have the range that they do today. The old 737-200s and 727-200s could only fly about 1400 miles if full. Thus, if an airline wanted to do a trans-con or something almost trans-con, you needed a DC10 or L1011. SEA-ATL was an L1011 flight on Eastern and Delta back then, and only a couple times a day. Same goes for something like DTW-LAX. Today, you have multiple daily flights on A320s and 738's that have plenty of range.

Bingo. Until the 757/767, the L10 and DC10 were the smallest trans-con capable machines that were still somewhat viable with 1970s oil prices. This whole thread makes me wonder: had they not expected the 747 to become a freighter after SST EIS and thus sized for 2-wide containers, would Boeing have made it the size of an A340 and sold a lot more?
 
MIflyer12
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Re: How did Airlines Fill up Large Widebodies in the Old days?

Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:22 pm

DLHAM wrote:
As far as I know loadfactors back in the days were much lower on average than they are today. Am I right?


In the days of U.S. airline regulation (pre-1978, and then a few years for it to go into full effect), fares were set to yield a 7% return on costs with 55% load factors. Very easy money by today's standards; very pricey tickets compared to today if adjusted for inflation; an environment that called for competition on service, not routes/schedule/price.

Revelation's post #19 nailed it: route fragmentation. There are lots of airport pairs that didn't exist in the mid-70s, and many more carriers (and frequencies) on many route pairs. At least in the U.S.A.

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