Ukrainian International Airlines will be resuming service from its hub at Kyiv Boryspil International Airport to JFK Airport in New York City. The service will see passengers spending 12 and a half hours in a Boeing 737 – including boarding and deplaning, and it might as well be 13 hours. So how is the airline going to pull off such a long flight in a single-aisle jet like the 737? Let’s find out.
There are a few ways to operate a long-distance, low-capacity route. An airline can use a large, widebody aircraft and not fill it to capacity, or it could invest in a plane like the A321XLR, which has sufficient range to go the distance. Of course, the A321XLR isn’t operating yet – so it’s not even an option that’s on the table right now.
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A technical stop in Iceland
The other option is to run a service using a smaller aircraft and have a technical stop for refueling. That’s what Ukrainian International Airlines (UIA) is going to do with its 737s on this service to New York JFK.
According to One Mile At A Time, UIA’s service between Kyiv (KBP) and New York (JFK) will resume twice weekly as of December 9th. This service will take place on Sundays and Wednesdays.
Using the Boeing 737-900ER, the schedule for this service is as follows:
- PS231. The first leg eastbound will go from Kyiv to Keflavik, departing at 10:00, arriving at 13:15.
- PS231. After an hour in Keflavik for refueling, the aircraft will continue to New York at 14:15, arriving at 15:35
- PS232. The first leg back to Kyiv will be an overnight service. Departing from New York for Keflavik at 22:10. It will arrive in Keflavik at 08:40 the next day.
- PS232. Continuing to Kyiv after an hour on the ground, the flight will depart Keflavik at 09:40 and arrive at 16:30
It should be noted that the stop in Keflavik is only a technical stop for refueling and will not be part of a fifth-freedom flight. This means that it will not be taking or delivering any passengers to or from Keflavik.
A long time in a 737
Flying from Kyiv to New York will have a total block time of 12 hours and 35 minutes. The first leg to Keflavik will be just over five hours, while the second to New York will be closer to six and a half.
Heading back East, the flight is blocked at 11 hours and 20 minutes, consisting of five and a half hours on the first leg to Keflavik, and just under five hours for the second flight onwards to Kyiv.
Of course, block time is just the time between the aircraft pushing back and arriving at the gate. It doesn’t include time spent boarding and deplaning. That’s a mighty long time to spend in a narrowbody aircraft.
The aircraft being used for this transatlantic service is the Boeing 737-900ER. It is configured for 189 economy seats. One Mile At A Time notes that there will be a business class on this flight. However, it will merely consist of the standard economy configuration with blocked middle seats.
Reminiscent of an Icelandic airline
Anyone who has flown a transatlantic itinerary with Icelandair or now-defunct WOW Air will be familiar with this routing. Icelandic carriers went up against the big players by offering free stopovers in Iceland as a way to break up the flight and provide an additional destination at no extra charge.
This strategy allowed the smaller Icelandic airlines to connect North America with continental Europe with their narrowbody twinjet aircraft. For WOW Air, it was often the Airbus A321, and for Icelandair, it was the Boeing 757.
Of course, it’s quite out-of-the-ordinary for UIA (or any non-Icelandic airline) to be running a transatlantic service with a technical stop. It will be interesting to see how popular it is given the amount of time spent in a narrowbody.
If you had to fly between New York and Kyiv, would this itinerary appeal to you at all? Or would you steer clear of having to spend 12-13 hours in a 737? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.