Cover photo courtesy of Oliver Holzbauer.
In commercial aviation, we mostly associate narrow body aircraft with short-duration flights, often lasting no more than several hours. Recently, however, the introduction of the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo series have seen significant fuel economy improvements compared to older generation models, meaning that these jets can fly longer distances on the same tank of fuel.
Many airlines have announced their intent to operate transatlantic service with these types of aircraft. Off the top of my head, I can think of Norwegian Long Haul, Primera Air, Air Canada, and Azores, among others (one of jetBlue's flight attendants even hinted to me that they'll be ordering the Airbus A321LR for possible transatlantic flights). Obviously, I would much prefer spending 7+ hours on a roomy wide body jet, but considering the fact that new markets that don't really have the demand compared to other routes, the 737 MAX and A321neo are boons for airlines.
WOW is a famous transatlantic low-cost carrier that has been featured in the news lately for their aggressive expansion in North America. Because they are based in Iceland, which is slightly more than halfway between the U.S. and Europe, WOW has been advertising connecting through Iceland (and possibly booking a stopover) at much lower prices than its competitors. The catch to this, however, is that you'll receive a very lackluster, low-cost product on its aircraft, as they have very cramped seats, no in-flight entertainment of any sort, and everything (water included) is for purchase only.
For some of its longer routes out of the U.S. West Coast, WOW flies a fleet of A330s, which also serve some high-demand regional routes to Europe as well. For example, WOW flies several times a week between Los Angeles and Reykjavik using Airbus A330-300 aircraft, which have either 342 or 338 seats. On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, WOW swapped out the A330 for one of its brand-new Airbus A321neo single-aisle aircraft. The aircraft, registered TF-SKY, took 8 hours and 40 minutes to reach Los Angeles from Reykjavik. For reference, the great circle distance between the two cities is 6,942 km (4,314 miles), and flights on average take 8 hours and 43 minutes. The maximum range of the A321neo is roughly 4,600 miles, so this flight pretty much uses up all of the aircraft's performance.
Data provided by FlightRadar24.
That's an awful long time to be spending on a single-aisle jet. Even more surprising, WOW flies an all-economy configuration on their A321s with 218 seats. In addition, seats are spaced at 17 inches wide, and seat pitch can be as low as 29 inches, a very tight squeeze (the lowest seat pitch on the A330s is 31 inches). Couple that with no in-flight entertainment and no free snacks/drinks, and you'll have a very miserable flight. I can't imagine what it must have been like for all of the passengers onboard flight WW173...