Major airlines are racing to add new transatlantic services now that tourism-dependent countries like Croatia, Greece, Iceland and Italy have started allowing visitors from the US and other countries for the first time in a year.
Delta Air Lines he began transportation to Reykjavik in Iceland from Boston on May 20, and then headed again directly to the Icelandic capital from Minneapolis, a week later. The New York service began on May 1st. United Airlines‘The first service for Dubrovnik starts on July 1 from its center Newark, New Jersey. The airline plans to add flights to Athens from July and October from Washington-Dulles next month, in addition to a service from Newark that began earlier this month.
Carriers are also stepping up timetables for Spain, Portugal and Italy as those countries also open up. American Airlinesfor example, they pushed services from Philadelphia to Athens until the second half of August, and to Rome from Philadelphia and Chicago in September – routes that are expected to continue next summer.
The European Union this week recommended the addition of the United States to the list of countries of safe origin, which could make it easier for U.S. visitors to enter the 27-nation bloc this summer. The EU has banned them since the start of the pandemic, and the change encourages airlines’ efforts to avoid another lost European summer.
Rapid flight launches show airlines ’squabble to increase revenue and halt pandemic losses totaling more than $ 32 billion for Delta, United and American combined.
Airlines generally like to discover new international destinations with fanfare a few months, and sometimes a year in advance. A long period of time gives airline marketing departments time to pique customer interest in campaigns that feature images of cobbled sun-drenched streets or stunning views of the Adriatic Sea. It also gives government jobs and airport teams time to secure permits and vendors to deal with everything from check-in to wheelchair service and fuel on the ground long before the first flights take off.
It’s through a window in the pandemic era. Airlines have instead waited for the green light from governments to lift travel restrictions to help rebuild international networks. Passengers also waited longer before booking due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
It would usually take Americans about a year to launch a new international route like their new Miami to Tel Aviv, said Brian Znotins, vice president of network planning and scheduling for American Airlines. Planning new routes involves hundreds of employees, he said.
“All those deadlines are compressed. People didn’t book eight and 12 months in advance. They booked two to three months in advance,” Znotins said. His team is “moving at the speed of light”.
Patrick Quayle, vice president of United’s international network and alliance, said demand for Dubrovnik, United’s new market, was so high after the airline announced it, urging global airline vice president David Kinzelman. with the request, “I’d like to start a week earlier. Can you do that?”
“We load it relatively late and put it in the hope that people will book,” Quayle said. He said demand for Croatia, Greece and Iceland had “covered up” demand for Britain, which is usually his biggest transatlantic destination, “because those three countries came out the door first.”
Domestic leisure bookings this summer are close by Level 2019 – with prices match – but usually lucrative international travel still lags behind as many travel restrictions remain in place. That forced American carriers to focus more on American destinations, where, in some cases they are deployed their largest aircraft which would normally fly across the ocean.
United said its international capacity this July is 36% of the total, down from a 45% share in 2019. And domestic flights are only a quarter lower than two years ago, while international capacity is twice as high.
But demand is growing for travel to Europe. The Hopper price tracking app said on Friday that searches for European flights had almost doubled compared to this time last month. Travel site Kayak he said searches for European travel were down 11% from 2019 and that plane tickets between the US and Europe averaged $ 929, about 6% below prices two years ago.
Although airlines are adding more services to Europe, demand and services are still at 2019 levels as the US still bans most non-citizens who have been to the European Union or the UK in the last two weeks, despite airline and industry travel requests to governments with both sides of the Atlantic. U.S. citizens can visit the UK, but still have to be quarantined.
But airlines are looking for any flights they can run, and their starting point is very low.
The number of passengers between the US and the 25 best destinations in May fell by more than 90% compared to 2019, while the number between the United States and Italy, the UK and Spain fell by 95% or more, according to Airlines for America, an industrial trade group that represents most of the major American carriers.
Covid travel restrictions also pose a challenge for airlines as they establish new flights with remote organization of field facilities and staff.
Kinzelman, vice president of United’s global airports, said that was the case ahead of the launch of Dulles Airlines for flights to Accra in Ghana this year.
“We could not persuade people who would normally travel in advance to do a site audit and tour the station,” he said. “In a lot of cases, it’s just videos like this that say, ‘Take your camera and let’s walk through space. What will the user experience look like? And it was very helpful.’
Kinzelman added that the airline would not want to do this indefinitely, but said “necessity is the mother of invention”.