Exactly the news frustrated travelers want to hear: In a bid to pinch pennies, many nonstop Continental flights from Europe to the East Coast are, you guessed it, stopping along the way. The latest airplane-related annoyance stems from United Continental Holding's decision to use smaller jets on several trans-Atlantic routes. The good news for United: Doing so lets United use planes that are cheaper to operate and staffed by fewer flight attendants. The bad news for you: If the planes run into strong headwinds, they burn more fuel, and need to stop and refuel, often in Canada.
The Wall Street Journal reports that those stops have affected thousands of fliers in recent weeks as United attempts to push its Boeing 757s to the brink of their 4,000-nautical-mile range. Of course, those stops cause delays, which means more connections are missed. In December, 43 of the approximately 1,100 757 flights bound for the US had to stop and refuel; in December 2010, that number was 12, on about the same volume of flights. United counters that headwinds have been more aggressive than usual: an average of 47 knots last month, compared to a 10-year December average of 30 knots. While the stops cause no safety issues, the FAA says it is looking into the increase.