For years, airlines only flew large, 3-4 engine wide-body aircraft across large bodies of water. This severely limited the number of operable routes, as airlines could only fly high-demand routes that could fill large planes. However, when the Boeing 767 was certified for ETOPS (i.e. when it was certified to fly far from diversion airports, allowing trans-oceanic travel, with only two engines), this all changed. The Boeing 767, 777, 787, and Airbus A330 and A350 have revolutionized the world of trans-ocean flying, as airlines can now transport passengers across oceans with ease and efficiency, no longer needing to worry about filling a 300+ seat aircraft. Finally, in recent years, carriers, starting with airlines like Westjet and British Airways, have started to fly even smaller aircraft across oceans – aircraft that are usually designed to fly shorter routes but have the capability and the certification to fly short, trans-oceanic routes. Here is a list of the airlines that operate over oceans with narrow-body planes.
Air Canada is not a new face in the narrow-body trans-ocean market. The airline has operated from St. John’s to London Heathrow for years with an Airbus A319. However, the route was recently upgraded to a Boeing 737 MAX 8. Recently, Air Canada has opened a number of routes that would not be profitable with larger aircraft. These routes connect Toronto to Shannon, Ireland; Montreal to Dublin; Halifax to London; Montreal to Reykjavik; Toronto to Reykjavik; and Montreal to Bordeaux. These routes are all operated by the Boeing 737 MAX 8, which Air Canada has recently started taking delivery of and is using to modernize its narrow-body fleet along with the Airbus A220.
Another Canadian carrier operating transatlantic flights with narrow-body aircraft is WestJet. WestJet operates a large range of transatlantic flights with Boeing 737s. Routes are operated with 737-700s, 737-800s, or 737 MAX 8s, depending on timing and route. The routes operated across the pond by the second-largest Canadian airline are Halifax to Glasgow; London-Gatwick and Paris Charles De Gaulle; and St. John’s to London-Gatwick and Dublin.
Yakutia airlines is a small Russian carrier based in Yakutsk operating a relatively large route network for a fleet size of only 17. Of these destinations, one stands out for being the only of its kind: a narrow-body flight across the Pacific ocean. During the summer months, Yakutia operates a once-weekly service between Petropavlovsk, in eastern Russia, and Anchorage, United States. This flight is operated by one of the airline’s five Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
Norwegian is perhaps the most well-known airline to fly small, narrow-body aircraft across the Atlantic ocean. Starting out with flights to New York’s Stewart Airport from destinations in Ireland and the UK, the airline has rapidly expanded its small aircraft offering to North America, the most recent expansion being to Hamilton, Canada – the airline’s first destination in Canada. Norwegian also has the Airbus A321LR on order, which will enable longer-range transatlantic flights that cannot be operated by the 737.
British Airways started flying across the Atlantic with narrow-bodies ten years ago with its inaugural, all-business class flight from London City to New York on the Airbus A318. The route continues to operate today and is BA’s only narrow-body transatlantic route to date.
While some may not count Boeing 757s, which are quite a large aircraft, as narrow-bodies, they still do have a 3-3 seating configuration, so they count. Icelandair operates the vast majority of their flights with the smaller 757-200, with two larger -300s for cities with extra demand. The airline is also gradually phasing in the Boeing 737 MAX to operate some routes that may not be feasible with the 757, currently operating three of the smaller Boeing aircraft on routes to North America and Europe.
WOW Air is a newer entrant into the Icelandic market, and, ever since it started, it has operated Airbus A320 family aircraft across oceans, starting with flights to Europe and then expanding into North America to compete with Icelandair. The airline only operates their larger Airbus A330s on long, popular routes, such as Reykjavik to Los Angeles and San Francisco. A320s and A321s, including some of the newer neo variant, operate most of WOW Air’s routes.
The flag carrier of Ireland is no stranger to narrow-body transatlantic flights, having operated the Boeing 757 on smaller-demand routes to the east coast of North America for years. Now, the airline will be introducing the first of eight Airbus A321LR aircraft in early 2019, which will start even longer routes to Minneapolis and other cities.
United, Delta, and American
The three largest carriers of the United States each operate a large amount of Boeing 757 flights across the Atlantic ocean. The three carriers each use the aircraft in similar routes, namely routes with low demand that they still wish to serve. For example, Delta’s new Boston-Edinburgh route, as well as several United routes to the United Kingdom, use the 757 instead of a larger wide-body. United currently holds the record for longest scheduled Narrow-body transatlantic flight, with its 757s operating the route from Newark to Stockholm.
Condor typically sends the Boeing 767 to North America, but when that aircraft is out of service, the smaller 757-300 is sent in its place. Since the 757 has the range and capability to fly to North America, it can sometimes be seen subbing in for the larger 767 when mechanical or other issues force one of those aircraft out of service.
La Compagnie is a small airline operating all-business-class Boeing 757s across the Atlantic ocean from Newark Airport to Paris. The airline currently operates two of the aircraft and has Airbus A321LR on order to replace the 757.
ASL Airlines does not operate any transatlantic flights for their own purposes anymore. However, they still provide aircraft services for Air St. Pierre, a small airline based in the French Overseas territory of St. Pierre and Miquelon. The airline flies their 737-700 for Air St. Pierre on the once-weekly summer flight between St. Pierre and Paris. The airline also previously flew the 737-700 between Paris and Halifax, sometimes with a refueling stop in the UK. However that service appears to have stopped.
There have been a few airlines that have either left the narrow-body trans-ocean market or have gone bankrupt. While the list is quite large, here are a few highlights:
- SAS previously flew a 737-700 BBJ operated by PrivatAir on the route between Houston, Texas, and Stavanger, Norway. This IS the longest scheduled 737 flight of all time. After the route stopped, the aircraft was used for a short time on the Boston to Copenhagen route before the contract with PrivatAir ended and the aircraft was transferred to Lufthansa to operate Frankfurt to Pune services.
- Primera Air was a well-known example of an airline flying transatlantic flights with narrow-body aircraft. Primera operated routes from Europe to the US and Canada before declaring bankruptcy in 2018. The airline used Airbus A321 aircraft and had the A321LR on order at the time of bankruptcy.
- OpenSkies, a British Airways subsidiary, previously flew Boeing 757s on a small transatlantic network. However, the airline has been integrated into low-cost carrier LEVEL, AND the former 757s and 767s have been retired in favor of the newer Airbus A330.
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