So what is a ‘Single Aircraft’ route?

In my last article, I referred to the Air India flight I was talking about as a ‘SIngle Aircraft’ route. That prompted several questions from readers as to what a single aircraft route and what makes it different from a non-single aircraft route? So, here goes…

Airlines operate routes with stops (as opposed to non-stop routes). When they introduce a stop in a route, they have an choice to make. They can continue the rest of the journey on the same aircraft or actually require an aircraft change. So, a route where there is no aircraft change, but the same aircraft continues for the rest of the journey is referred to as a Single Aircraft Route. Let me give some examples of both scenarios – single aircraft and otherwise:

As noted in my previous article, Air India was operating (for a very, very short while) their DEL-JFK-IAD flight as a single aircraft route. The 777 aircraft that flew from New Delhi (DEL) to New York (JFK), took off and continued the journey to Washington Dulles (IAD).

Washington Dulles has a couple of other such single aircraft routes. Ethiopian Airlines operates their Washington Dulles to Addis Ababa via a stop in Rome, as a single aircraft route (IAD-FCO-ADD). South African Airways has their Washington Dulles to Johannesburg flight (on a beautiful A340-600 – see picture attached) via Dakkar, Senegal (IAD-DKR-JNB).

Example of non-single aircraft routes are many. United Airlines operates its flight from Washington Dulles to Singapore via Tokya Narita (IAD-NRT-SIN), but they have an aircraft change in Tokyo. Both aircraft are Boeing 777-200s and operate under the same flight number (UA803/804), but you have to change planes.

Most international flights that have a domestic leg require an aircraft change. For example, I recently flew from Raleigh, NC to Washington Dulles (RDU-IAD) on UA924. the aircraft was an A320. The flight continued to London Heathrow (IAD-LHR) as the same flight number, but the plane was changed over to a 777. I found another example while searching for flights to Las Vegas. Flight UA950 is actually Las Vegas – Washington Dulles – Brussels (LAS-IAD-BRU), again requiring an aircraft change in Washington, Dulles.

I like single aircraft operations for obvious reasons – no changing planes! On a long journey such as IAD-DEL, I don’t care about a stop over, but I prefer it if I do not have to get off, walk to another gate and board another plane. I also don’t have to pull out my India phone card to make a call to let my folks know that I made the aircraft change (Mom’s, you know). Just let me sleep…

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  1. And of course, there are some flight segments which are technically two aircraft routes, but the metal used is the same ! One disembarks (for whatever reason, usually because this is at a hub of some sort) and after a while gets on to the same aircraft – possibly same seats as well. I know some of 9W’s DEL/BOM-BRU-NYC/JFK/YYZ that used to do this, not sure if they still do.

    It is a bit strange that there could be two different routes under the same flight number (re your piece on RDU-IAD, IAD-LHR) ! Won’t that confuse the heck out of them 😉

  2. Yes it does. But for someone buying an RDU-LHR ticket, they are technically on the same ‘flight’ with 1 stop over.

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