The airlines, especially charter carriers who book extra flights during tourist season, love the 757-200. Airbus still doesn’t have a direct competitor to Boeing’s 21-year-old product, which seats 228 passengers and traverses 3,900 nautical miles. Other aircraft, such as the 777 and A340, can exceed the 757’s range, but they also have much larger seating capacity and are much more expensive. For missions that are “long and narrow”, such as hauling 200 price-conscious tourists from London to Orlando, the 757 is ideal.
Because of the cattle-car feeling, the carriers’ affection is not shared by passengers. The typical seating configuration is 38 rows with three on each side. Other single-aisle planes, such as the 737, used by Southwest, or the A320, flown by Jet Blue, have 150-170 seats. The 757’s lengthier routes and longer unloading time make for a less pleasant flying experience.
Last night our flight to Hawaii did not begin promisingly. The 757 departed a half an hour late on its originating flight from Indianapolis and was correspondingly late on arrival in San Francisco. We waited another half an hour to take on passengers from a tardy flight from Chicago. It’s hard to blame the airline’s penny-pinching orientation; they had the only sub-$400 round-trip fare to the Islands in August, while many competitors were charging over $600.
Nevertheless, there were pleasant aspects to the flight. There was plenty of legroom (“pitch”—the distance between rows of seats), the movie, Shrek 2,was enjoyable (headphones were included), and there was no surcharge for the hot meal. And the three of us could sit together on the fully loaded flight because we had selected our seats online one month earlier.
After an uneventful landing and wait at the baggage carousel, we proceeded to the car-rental agency. All of us were dragging as we hauled the suitcases up the stairs of our relative’s house after 11 p.m. (2 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time). I felt a twinge of exhilaration about coming home after three years and fell asleep as soon as my head touched down. © 2004 Stephen Yuen
The view that greeted me this morning: the Waikiki skyline and Diamond Head on the left.