Las Vegas is hot in the summer. So hot that Norwegian is cutting back its flights due to performance limitations. With temperatures in the desert frequently exceeding 100 degrees (more than 60 days in 2016) the Norwegian flights were forced to take delays too often, inconveniencing passengers and costing the airline big bucks.
The problem is a combination of aircraft performance and airline choice. All planes suffer from reduced lift performance in hot weather because the air is thinner. Temperatures over 104 used to be a deal-breaker for airlines as the aircraft performance wasn’t typically charted for those extremes. That’s changed lately as more aircraft are certified to higher temperatures but there are trade-offs involved. Operating about 120 degrees is possible but requires higher thrust settings and/or longer runways to get off the ground. The challenge is compounded by Norwegian’s cabin layout.
Norwegian operates the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner on its four Las Vegas routes (London-Gatwick, Oslo, Stockholm & Copenhagen). The plane’s “default” specification is for 242 seats in a 2-cabin arrangement. Most airlines fly with 200-250 seats on board. Norwegian flies with 292. The extra weight on board from those passengers (and seats and bags) means even the higher thrust option simply wasn’t working for the airline. And so, rather than taking delays to wait for temperatures to cool off in the summer Norwegian will suspend the routes in the 2017 heat, resuming when things cool off again in the fall.
This is not the only airport to suffer the impact of high temperatures. Phoenix SkyHarbor has seen issues in the past. And United Airlines has been known to delay its Newark-Hong Kong departure in peak summer heat as that flight pushes the limits of the 777-200ER. But this is the first time Norwegian has had to cancel a route due to heat. Oopsie.
Added irony for the news: anna.aero just gave Oslo airport an award for the Las Vegas route:
— anna.aero (@annaaero) November 16, 2016
Header image: Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos at London Gatwick in front of one of the company’s 787s. Image CC BY 3.0 from http://media.norwegian.com/us/#/images/
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