The 757-200 was the most popular version of the 757; it offered long range, improved efficiency and increased capacity. The aircraft is used in transatlantic routes between the U.S. and Europe as well as to smaller cities where passenger volumes are unable to support wide-body aircraft.
Boeing has announced that it is currently carrying out an internal study to assess the prospects of replacing the 757 to fill up an existing gap in the market.
Following extended operations (ETOPS) approval in 1992, American Trans Air used the 757-200 for its transpacific services between Tucson and Honolulu. Since the 2000s, major U.S. airlines have used the aircraft on transatlantic routes between the U.S. and Europe as well as to smaller cities where passenger volumes are too low to support wide-body aircraft.
After ceasing production in 2004, the 757-200 was replaced by the Airbus A321 or the 737-900ER on domestic routes. However, cessation of 757 production created a potential gap in the market. US Airways has expressed its concerns that the A321neo does not have the capacity to service long-range routes such as Philadelphia to Europe or Phoenix to Honolulu.
Jim McNerney, Boeing chief executive, said,
I think we're trying to think through exactly how to fill that market. The largest part of that [757-200 replacement] segment is going to be filled by the larger versions of the narrowbody [737 Max]." He added, "But there's some product planning we have yet to do, and we'll announce that in due course.
Clearly, there is a gap in the market. However, the number of aircraft that US airlines need to operate these long haul, thin routes – which cannot use current aircraft – is not significantly high.
The size of this potential market will need to be ascertained. With a possible small order book, it will be important for Boeing to make the economics work – limited development costs, superior features, and better aircraft performance will be essential.