Have you ever wondered which type of aircraft you were going to be flying on when travelling? Were you going to fly on a relatively large plane or a small one? The answer depends on the type of route you were travelling on. Aircraft are specifically designed to operate routes of a certain distance, so the plane that you would be flying on would typically be a plane designed to fly that type of route. In this article, we will be taking a look at which planes are usually used for short, medium, and long haul commercial flights.
Short-haul flights are defined as flights that last from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Counting small regional aircraft and corporate jets, there are hundreds of aircraft that are used for short-haul flights, but in this article, we will only be taking a look at commercial short-haul aircraft. Commercial short-haul aircraft usually have low volumes of around 100-200 passenger capacity. The most common short-haul aircraft are the variants of the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320. This includes all Boeing 737NG series, the Boeing 737 MAX series, the Airbus A319, Airbus A320, and Airbus A321. The variants of the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 are so common that they’re the most popular types of aircraft in the world. Some other pretty popular short-haul aircraft are the Embraer 175 and 190, and the Bombardier CRJ200, CRJ700, and CRJ900. The Boeing 717 and ATR 72 are also short-haul aircraft, but they’re much less common in the industry. A new short-haul aircraft called the Airbus A220 has also recently entered the market. The A220 has caught the attention of several airlines, and it may emerge as one of the dominant short-haul aircraft in the future.
Medium-haul flights are flights that are usually around 3-6 hours. The medium-haul aircraft market is the smallest among the three, and there are not as many medium haul planes as there are long haul or short haul aircraft. One of the most common medium-haul aircraft is the Boeing 787 series. The 787 comes in three variants – the 787-8, 787-9, and 787-10. All three of these variants are used for medium-haul flights, but the 787 is not always a medium range plane since the 787-9 and 787-10 variants have been and are still being used for long-haul routes. Most planes that operate medium haul routes today are extended-range variants of the short-haul aircraft like the 737 and a320. For example, variants of these aircraft such as the 737-900ER and A321neo are commonly used for medium length flights. More airplanes that are designed for medium-haul flights include the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767. These aircraft have been gradually phased-out over the past several years, but there are still many of them that remain in service.
Long-haul flights are flights that are usually over 6 hours, and there are several wide-body aircraft that compete against each other in this market. The long-haul market is one of the most-competitive markets out there, and mainstream aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing are famous for their competition in long-haul aircraft. Both companies have had success in their long-range aircraft. The most common long-haul aircraft include the Boeing 777 variants, larger versions of the 787, larger versions of the 767, the Airbus A330 variants, the Airbus A340 variants, the Airbus A350 variants, the Airbus A380, and the iconic Boeing 747. Despite the phasing out of passenger A380s, 747s, and A340s, all of these wide-body aircraft have represented a decent portion of long-haul air travel. The more popular long-range aircraft are the Boeing 777, Boeing 787-9 and -10, the Airbus A330, and the Airbus A350. These aircraft are in close competition with each other, and constant modifications are being made to improve one over another, such as the A330neo, A350XWB, and 777X developments. There isn’t necessarily an aircraft that is generally more popular than the others on long-haul flights. You are almost equally likely to encounter one of these aircraft on a long-haul flight, unless the airline you travel with has a preference. These are the aircraft used on long-haul flights.
Although the planes in each category are the ones that operate their flight length most of the time, there could be exceptions. Some long haul aircraft could be used for short haul or medium haul if an airline has an abundance of that aircraft type in their fleet. An example of this is the Emirates, where A380s are sometimes used for medium haul flights. Bigger aircraft could also be used for short or medium haul flights if there is an equipment switch or if a plane needs to be ferried to an airport. Overall, these are the types of planes that are most commonly going to be used on the type of route you are flying. Next time you travel, see if the aircraft you fly is on the list for the type of route you flew!
Cover Photo: Cargospotter