Fabulous Fridays: Airlines That Use Long Haul Equipment For Short Domestic & Regional Flights

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It’s Fabulous Friday again and this week our weekly series is about airlines that at times use long haul aircraft for short domestic or regional flights.

Especially in Asia it’s very common for carriers to send their long haul configured aircraft on shorter routes that require larger capacity.

Airlines such as Air China, Cathay Pacific and Thai Airways have many large aircraft in their fleet such as Boeing 747/777 and Airbus A330/340/350 which they sometimes use for flights that are traditionally operated by smaller equipment with regional style seating, especially in premium classes.

It’s a big difference if an airline such as Cathay Pacific sends an aircraft with long haul configured Business Class for routes such as Bangkok-Singapore or Bangkok-Hong Kong vs their regional style seats.

Last month I also had to fly a couple times within China and actively selected flights that were operated by Air China’s A330 aircraft that offer a nice lie flat Business Class with an impressive service for the 1:45h flight between Beijing and Shanghai.

Thai Airways routinely sends long haul equipment to domestic destinations such as Phuket which makes the brief flight very comfortable as well. Sometimes they even use a Boeing 747 on the BKK-HKT route.

Doing so isn’t limited to airlines in Asia though. In North America I was lucky enough to catch flights on United a couple of times using the 747 between Washington Dulles, Chicago and San Francisco. It’s been a few years since I’ve flown that but I still remember United distributed video tapes in First Class. Very nostalgic!

Air Canada also operates Boeing 777 within Canada for certain city pairs such as Vancouver-Toronto if you pick the right flight. Their international Business Class is really good and not even remotely comparable to ‘Grandmas Armchair’ as I like to call the usual regional First Class seats on the single aisle aircraft.

Many carriers operate so called ‘Fifth Freedom Routes’ which are continuation segments between the airlines country of origin, a stop on the way and a third country destination. Most, if not all of these are operated by long haul equipment.

Examples of these in Asia are:

  • Bangkok-Hong Kong (Kenya Airways, Sri Lankan Airlines)
  • Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur (Ethiopian Airlines)
  • Seoul-Taipei (Thai Airways)
  • Taipei-Tokyo (Cathay Pacific)

Airlines are allowed to sell these connections separately as long as they are international flights. It’s not allowed to book domestic flights either on commercial or mileage tickets so routes such as Los Angeles-New York on Qantas are not permitted to be purchased.

Conclusion

It really pays off to study the details of available flight connections to potentially pick a flight operated by a nicer aircraft if the schedule suits you.

Personally I really don’t like single aisle aircraft and try to avoid them if at all possible.

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