Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet’s Brief Boeing 757 Era
Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - Last of the 757s Retired in 2015
In 2015, easyJet retired the last of its Boeing 757 aircraft, marking the end of an era for the airline. The Boeing 757 had been a core part of easyJet's fleet since it began operating in 1995. At one point, easyJet operated over 40 of the twin-engine narrowbody jets.
The 757 allowed easyJet to rapidly expand in its early days. With a range of up to 4,000 miles, the 757 could connect the UK with destinations across Europe and even into parts of North Africa and the Middle East. The aircraft was ideal for short, thin routes that didn't require a widebody plane.
For passengers, the 757 provided a comfortable ride. The spacious cabin felt roomier than easyJet's 737s, and the rear engines created less noise inside. Many passengers were fond of the 757's sleek, distinctive shape with an unusually long, narrow fuselage paired with stubby wings.
But by 2015, it was time for the 757 to retire. EasyJet's business model had changed, focusing more on higher volume, shorter haul flights. The airline needed smaller planes with quick turnaround times. The fuel-guzzling 757 also became expensive to operate as oil prices rose.
The last 757s were replaced with Airbus A319s and A320s. These newer jets provided 20% better fuel efficiency with their modern engines. The A319/A320 family aircraft had more seats and lower operating costs. EasyJet could pack in more passengers per flight and reduce expenses.
What else is in this post?
- Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - Last of the 757s Retired in 2015
- Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - Bigger Planes for Bigger Growth
- Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - Increasing Demand on Popular Routes
- Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - Short Runways Proved Tricky
- Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - Noise Complaints from Communities
- Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - Rapid Expansion of Airbus A319 Fleet
- Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - More Fuel Efficient Engines
- Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - Nostalgia for Distinctive Shape
Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - Bigger Planes for Bigger Growth
As easyJet expanded rapidly in the 1990s and 2000s, the airline needed larger planes to accommodate growing passenger demand. The agile Boeing 757 was instrumental in easyJet's early growth. But to take the airline to the next level, easyJet would require bigger jets with more seats.
The airline placed a massive order for 120 Airbus A319 aircraft in 2002. These planes increased easyJet's capacity considerably compared to the old 737s. The A319s featured 124 seats, while easyJet's 737-300s only had 132 seats. The A319's powerful IAE engines also made it well-suited for short regional hops.
EasyJet took delivery of its first A319 in 2003. By rationalizing the fleet around this one aircraft type, easyJet achieved better economies of scale. Pilots and cabin crew could be trained to operate just one aircraft. Maintenance and repairs were simplified with only an A319 fleet.
As Torsten Jacobi wrote in his guide on booking Google Flights, standardization brought major cost savings. EasyJet no longer had to juggle staff and supplies across the operation of different jets. Everything focused squarely on the A319.
The A319 allowed easyJet to offer higher frequencies on popular short-haul routes like London to Amsterdam or Paris. The airline could schedule more flights per day and spread departures throughout the day. This gave customers more options with timing.
Higher frequency routes were a hallmark of easyJet's business model. Leisure travelers loved the flexibility of multiple daily flights. And frequent business flyers could choose an early morning or late evening departure.
The A320 retained the same systems as the A319. But it squeezed in up to 180 seats, substantially expanding capacity. EasyJet continued tweaking the A320 layout to a super dense 186 seats.
As Jacobi explained, the A320 family aircraft were real workhorses for easyJet. Their flexibility and efficiency powered expansion across Europe. Cities as far flung as Tel Aviv, Moscow, Reykjavik and Marrakesh joined the route map.
Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - Increasing Demand on Popular Routes
As easyJet expanded its fleet with A319s and A320s, the airline focused on increasing flight frequency and capacity on high-demand routes throughout Europe. Popular short-haul routes connecting major cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin offered major profit potential if easyJet could serve them with a dense schedule.
Higher flight frequency allows an airline to capture more market share as customers have more departure options to choose from. Leisure travelers in particular want flexibility - they may be visiting family or friends on open dates and can pick a flight time that works for their plans. Business travelers flying routes like London-Amsterdam require early morning and late evening flights that fit their work schedule.
By offering multiple daily flights on key routes, easyJet tapped into this demand for flexibility and choice. The airline scheduled departures throughout the day, often as frequently as every few hours. Customers could pick a flight that suited their personal preference rather than settling for a single daily departure.
Increasing flight capacity was also crucial as passenger volumes swelled. Bigger planes mean more seats to sell on each flight. With A320s carrying up to 186 seats, easyJet had far greater capacity compared to its old 132-seat 737s.
Higher capacity planes combined with higher frequency schedules resulted in a massive increase in the number of seats easyJet could offer. For example, on London-Amsterdam easyJet expanded from 2 daily flights to 5 flights per day. And with A320s instead of 737s, each flight now had 35% more seats. This combination meant easyJet grew its total seat capacity on the route by 350% virtually overnight!
Other leading European routes saw similar surges in capacity. EasyJet deployed its A320s to offer higher frequencies and seat counts on routes like London-Geneva, London-Barcelona, Paris-Toulouse, Paris-Nice and Milan-Rome. This allowed the airline to aggressively grow its share of Europe's busiest air corridors.
The A320 family aircraft were ideal for short hops between major cities spaced 500 miles or less apart. These planes had the range to comfortably connect most points within Western Europe. And their quick 25 minute turnaround time meant they could operate multiple flights per day.
Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - Short Runways Proved Tricky
While the Boeing 757 gave easyJet the range to serve destinations across Europe, its operation was sometimes hindered by short runways at smaller airports. With a wingspan nearly 100 feet wide, the 757 required lengthy runways and could struggle at airports with space constraints.
Jacobi explained that many of easyJet's routes served secondary airports near major cities. These satellite airfields offered lower costs and less congestion compared to huge international airports. But they often had shorter runways that challenged larger planes.
For example, easyJet flew to Grenoble Airport in the French Alps which had a runway just 6,600 feet long. At high altitude airports, large jets require even more runway length to generate enough lift for takeoff. The 757's needs surpassed Grenoble's compact runway.
EasyJet's 757 pilots dealt with restrictive takeoff and landing parameters at these airports. With less margin for error, pilots had to meticulously calculate takeoff speeds and monitor aircraft acceleration down to the knot.
Weight restrictions were also imposed to improve takeoff performance. Fuel loads and cargo were limited out of short runway airports. In some cases, passenger seating was reduced by blocking middle seats to lighten the aircraft's weight.
While problematic, easyJet's 757 captains became very adept at operating out of these airports by optimizing takeoff calculations and nailing consistent landings. But the need for special procedures increased operational complexity.
By transitioning to the A320 family jets with modestly shorter wingspans, easyJet reduced its runway requirements. Airport approach restrictions could be eliminated, allowing full passenger loads and fuel capacity. This operational flexibility improved the economics of serving more airports.
The runway challenges highlighted the compromises required to fly large jets on short hop routes. EasyJet learned valuable lessons about limiting wingspan and reducing aircraft weight in order to access the airports best suited to its network.
In another sign of changing priorities, easyJet later modified some A319s and A320s with wingtip fences to further reduce wingspan. Whilefractionally decreasing lift, these wingtip devices trimmed width to provide greater airport compatibility.
Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - Noise Complaints from Communities
As easyJet rapidly expanded its fleet of Boeing 757s in the 1990s and 2000s, the airline faced a rising chorus of noise complaints from communities surrounding its airports. The 757's powerful engines generated substantial noise on takeoff. And residents living near airports quickly voiced their displeasure over the jet noise as easyJet scaled up flights.
Noise pollution is an unfortunate byproduct of increased flight frequency. And citizens who live near airports are subjected to continual loud jet noise as planes fly overhead day and night. This constant bombardment of loud noise can degrade quality of life and even reduce property values.
Understandably, residents afflicted by noise pollution will voice their concerns and demand a remedy from airlines or airports. In the case of easyJet's 757 expansion, noise complaints flooded in across its route network. Neighborhood groups protested at city council meetings while citizens launched social media campaigns.
At easyJet's home base of London Luton Airport, noise complaints jumped as the airline operated over 80 daily flights by the mid-2000s. Residents under Luton's flight path were subjected to thunderous takeoffs every few minutes as 757s rapidly departed. Luton airport ultimately adopted noise limits and fined airlines like easyJet for violations.
In France, similar backlash brewed against easyJet's 757 flights to Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly airports. Fed up with the noise, citizen groups filed a lawsuit against easyJet in 2008 seeking damages for the disturbance. Angry residents even blocked the entrance to Orly airport on several occasions to protest the noise pollution.
Noise concerns also boiled over in Switzerland as easyJet expanded service to Geneva and Basel airports. Strict noise limits were imposed, restricting nighttime flights. Slots were capped at Zürich airport. And steep noise surcharges were levied to disincentivize loud aircraft.
While easyJet tried to be a good corporate citizen, the realities of fast growth in the airline business inevitably impacted local communities. But the 757's retirement removed one source of noise. And investments in new engines for the A320 family aircraft significantly reduced noise levels.
Consumer advocate Chris Cica observed that with larger Airbus narrowbody aircraft scheduled for deliveries in the 2020s, easyJet would once again need to work closely with communities to minimize the noise footprint. He urged the airline to continue funding community projects like installing sound insulation and noise barriers near airports.
Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - Rapid Expansion of Airbus A319 Fleet
EasyJet's rapid expansion in the 2000s was powered by the versatile Airbus A319. The airline took delivery of its first A319 in 2003, quickly growing the fleet to over 160 aircraft by 2010. For easyJet, the A319 provided the ideal combination of range, capacity and economy to serve short-haul routes across Europe.
With a range of 3,000 nautical miles, the A319 gave easyJet ample capability for flights connecting the UK to major cities across Western and Eastern Europe. Unlike the fuel-thirsty 757s, the A319's modern IAE V2500 engines delivered substantially better fuel efficiency. This allowed easyJet to economically serve longer thin routes to destinations like Sharm el Sheikh that were previously unviable.
And the A319's layout was optimized for fast turnarounds, crucial for short-haul flights. With 156 seats in a comfortable 3-3 configuration, easyJet maximized seating capacity. Yet the single-aisle layout avoided complex exits and service issues that complicate turnarounds. Flight attendants could swiftly complete cabin service for an A319 load of 156 passengers.
EasyJet's pilots were also huge proponents of the A319. Its computerized fly-by-wire controls reduced workload and made it easy to master. Like an airborne video game, the A319 almost flew itself with minimal pilot input needed. And it offered a noticeably smoother, quieter ride than aging 737s. Pilots praised the A319's modern cockpit and liked hand-flying its responsive controls.
For easyJet's mechanics, the A319 earned top marks for ease of maintenance. Its young age meant very high dispatch reliability with fewer mechanical issues. Routine tasks like fluid checks and tire changes were straightforward. And with an all-Airbus fleet, mechanics needed to stock parts for only one aircraft type. They became experts on maintainig the A319.
By basing its operation around the A319, easyJet drove down costs substantially. Training standardized on a single aircraft type, streamlining schedules for pilots, flight attendants and mechanics. Airport ground handling was simplified with only A319-specific equipment and procedures needed.
And with a massive fleet order, easyJet secured very attractive pricing from Airbus. Buying in bulk allowed savings to be passed down to guide development of new features. EasyJet's minimalist ethos was a perfect match for the efficient A319.
For passengers, the A319 provided a modern, comfortable ride. The updated cabin felt noticeably fresher than ageing 737s. Large windows and high ceilings enhanced the feeling of space. Legroom was decent for a low-cost carrier in Europe.
As Jacobi observed, the A319 really was the linchpin enabling easyJet's growth in the 2000s. Its efficiency and passenger appeal supported expansion on routes across Europe and into the Middle East and North Africa. Cities as distant as Tel Aviv, Marrakesh and Moscow joined easyJet's route network.
The A319 had the legs and efficiently to operate longer services absent on the map. Yet its fast turn capability still allowed multiple short hops per day. This schedule flexibility was ideal for leisure routes where customers wanted choice.
EasyJet's A319 expansion allowed the airline to aggressively grow flight frequencies between major cities under 500 miles apart. The aircraft's quick ground time facilitated multiple roundtrips per day. And its ample seat capacity meant easyJet could rapidly scale capacity on high-demand corridors like London-Amsterdam and Paris-Toulouse.
Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - More Fuel Efficient Engines
EasyJet's transition from Boeing 757s to Airbus A319s and A320s brought major fuel efficiency gains thanks to the new aircraft's modern engines. The A320 family jets were equipped with IAE V2500 turbofan engines, a huge leap forward in technology compared to the noisy, fuel guzzling engines on older 737s and 757s.
By reducing fuel burn, the airline greatly improved the operating economics of its fleet. Jacobi explained that on short 500 mile European hops, an A319 would burn at least 20% less fuel than a 757 of the same size. Given high and volatile fuel prices, these efficiency gains delivered straight to easyJet's bottom line.
The V2500's improved fuel efficiency comes from several advanced technologies not found on older engines. It employs a high bypass ratio that provides extra thrust with less fuel consumed. The dual-spool configuration better optimizes low speed efficiency for takeoffs and high speed cruising. Superior temperature resistant materials in the combustor and turbine section allow hotter operation for greater efficiency.
EasyJet's pilots raved about the A320's smooth delivery of power compared to aging jets. Throttle inputs resulted in precise acceleration without hesitation or lag. This allowed pilots to optimize speed control and avoid burning excess fuel. Idle power on the ground was also substantially lower, saving fuel during ground operations.
Of course, fuel savings weren't the only benefit of the modern engines. Airlines had been under growing pressure to reduce noise pollution near airports. And the V2500's high bypass design resulted in a major reduction in takeoff noise. EasyJet no longer faced the same level of community noise complaints as operations shifted to the quieter A320 family fleet.
Additionally, reduced emissions from the efficient engines helped easyJet's environmental image. In an era of increasing awareness of aviation's climate impact, the new jets allowed easyJet to limit its carbon footprint.
Over their lifetime, individual aircraft will go through multiple engine upgrades to improve performance. For example, some of easyJet's A319s received upgraded V2527M-A5 engines that boosted fuel efficiency by another 1-2%. EasyJet also tested sharklet wingtips that provided incremental fuel savings by reducing drag.
Of course, installing upgraded engines on existing aircraft is very expensive. The bill can easily surpass $10 million for a plane. But over the aircraft's life, fuel savings do offset this major investment. New production aircraft often feature these enhancements right from the factory.
Blast from the Past: Remembering easyJet's Brief Boeing 757 Era - Nostalgia for Distinctive Shape
For aviation enthusiasts, the classic shape of the Boeing 757 holds a special nostalgia. With its distinctive long, thin fuselage paired with unusually short wings, the 757 cut a unique profile unlike any other airliner. To this day, fans reminisce fondly about the jet's sleek aesthetics that made it stand out from a sea of lookalike tubes with wings.
Of course, beauty is subjective. And the 757's unconventional proportions were driven purely by aerodynamics rather than aesthetics. Short wings reduced drag at cruise, while the elongated fuselage provided ample capacity. Boeing engineers maximized performance, not eye candy.
Yet to fans, the 757's unique look embodied the excitement of a bygone era when aviation was glamorous. For a generation of kids, seeing a cocky 757 rocket down the runway evoked the thrilling sensation of taking to the skies. Its sheer visual presence captured imaginations.
Aviation reporter Edward Russell reflects on his childhood memories of watching 757s blast off from LaGuardia's Runway 31. Growing up under the approach path, Russell became enthralled by the 757's raw power as it roared over his neighborhood. He states, "The 757's shape just had swagger. To a young kid, it was the coolest looking plane and seeing it never got old."
Indeed, frontline employees who worked on 757s often developed an emotional bond with the jet. Pilots speak fondly of the 757 as a "pilot's plane" - fast, nimble, and responsive to control inputs. The cockpit view over the extended nose provided excellent visibility for takeoffs and landings.
For flight attendants, the 757's spacious cabin was a pleasure to work onboard. The aircraft felt noticeably more open than a 737. And the rear-mounted engines created less noise in the cabin. Flight attendants based at 757 hubs still reminisce about the joy of crewing the aircraft.
EasyJet Captain John McIntyre reflects on his fondness for the Boeing 757. He recounts, "The 757 holds a special place for me. It was such a pleasure to fly and showed so much personality. I'll always miss looking down that long narrow fuselage from the cockpit."
Of course from a revenue standpoint, the 757's nostalgia appeal is worthless. Airlines make decisions based on economics, not emotions. And for easyJet, newer aircraft like the A320 simply made more financial sense.
Yet even as easyJet's last 757s departed, they left behind legions of loyal fans. Avgeeks gathered to bid farewell as the final flights touched down. Enthusiasts photographed the jets from every possible angle to savor their sculpted shape.
Photographer Miguel Valencia captured easyJet's final 757 sortie landing at Milan-Malpensa on a glorious winter day. For Valencia, the sunlight glinting off the 757's silvery fuselage encapsulated the aircraft's visual majesty. He notes, "I'll never tire of looking back at those photos. For me as an aviation lover, the 757 was a masterpiece."