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United kicks off largest transatlantic expansion in its history

United Airlines has kicked off the launch of its largest transatlantic expansion in its history, in anticipation of a strong recovery in European travel.

Patrick Quayle: We have long anticipated a strong demand recovery

In total, United will launch or resume 30 transatlantic flights from mid-April to early June. This includes adding new nonstop flights to five destinations no other North American airline serves including Amman, Jordan; Bergen, Norway; Azores, Portugal; Palma de Mallorca, Spain and Tenerife in the Spanish Canary Islands.

The airline is also launching five new nonstop flights to some of Europe’s most popular business and tourist hubs including London, Milan, Zurich, Munich and Nice. United is also resuming fourteen Atlantic routes the airline has historically served and adding frequencies in six others.

United’s transatlantic route network will be more than 25% larger than it was in 2019.

With this expansion, United will serve more transatlantic destinations than every other U.S. carrier combined and will be the largest airline across the Atlantic for the first time in history.

Patrick Quayle, senior vice president of international network and alliances at United said,

We have long anticipated a strong demand recovery, evidenced by our large, strategic expansion in Europe, and with these new flights, we’re proud to offer our customers more options and access than ever before. United continues to leverage its leading global network in new and exciting ways to help our customers make meaningful memories and experience new cultures around the world.

In light of the increased demand for European travel, United is also launching new services to some of Europe’s most iconic cities, including:

  • New daily flights between Boston and London Heathrow, which began on 14 April, and is United’s only trans-oceanic point-to-point flight from Boston. This flight complements United’s nonstop service to London Heathrow from all seven of United’s hubs.
  • New daily flights between Denver and Munich, which began April 23 and joins existing service from Denver to Frankfurt and London. United is the only U.S. airline to offer transatlantic service from Denver.
  • New daily flights between Chicago and Zurich, which began April 23. United now offers more nonstop service between Switzerland and the U.S. than any other U.S. airline, and is the only U.S. airline with nonstop service to Geneva.
  • New daily flights between New York/Newark and Nice, beginning April 29. United will offer more premium seats to Nice than any other U.S. carrier.
  • New daily flights between Chicago and Milan, beginning May 6, joining existing seasonal flights between Chicago and Rome. United will be the only airline to offer nonstop service between Chicago and Milan, adding to its existing service between New York/Newark and Milan.

In addition to these new flights, United is increasing service to popular European travel destinations, including:

  • Second daily flights between New York/Newark and Dublin, which began 23 April.
  • Second daily flights between Denver and London Heathrow, beginning 7 May.
  • Second daily flight between New York/Newark and Frankfurt, beginning 26 May.
  • Second flight between New York/Newark and Rome five times weekly, beginning 27 May.
  • Adding a third daily flight between San Francisco and London Heathrow and increasing service between New York/Newark and London Heathrow to seven daily flights, beginning 28 May. With this additional service, United will offer 22 daily nonstop flights from the U.S. to London Heathrow.

To help generate excitement about these new routes, earlier this month United launched two unique out of home campaigns, including digital billboards in downtown Boston to highlight the airline’s new Boston-London Heathrow service. United also teamed up with Saks Fifth Avenue for a series of window displays featuring fashion inspired by United’s five unique transatlantic routes.

In addition to these European routes, United is also growing its presence in Africa as part of this transatlantic expansion. On 8 May, United will increase its service to offer daily flights between Washington/Dulles and Accra, Ghana. The airline will also extend its existing seasonal service to Cape Town to year-round, with nonstop flights from New York/Newark resuming 5 June, subject to government approval.

Uneven effect of Covid-19 shakes up the lists of busiest airports

Airports Council International (ACI) World has published its preliminary world airport traffic rankings – covering passenger traffic and aircraft movements for 2020 – showing the dramatic impact of Covid-19 on what are ordinarily the world’s busiest airports.

Global passenger traffic at the world’s top 10 busiest airports decreased by 45.7% in 2020. Overall, passenger traffic at the world’s airports decreased by 64.6% which shows that the impact of the pandemic and the early stages of recovery in air travel has not been uniform around the world.

According to the preliminary data, Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport in China recorded the most passenger traffic in 2020, with Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in the United States just behind.

Seven of the top 10 airports for passenger traffic are in China with three in the United States. In most cases, domestic air travel is beginning a modest rebound while international air travel remained depressed because of travel restrictions.

Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director General of ACI World said,

The impact of the COVID-19 on global passenger traffic pandemic brought aviation to a virtual standstill in 2020 and we continue to face threat. The data reveals the challenge airports continue to face and it remains imperative that the industry is supported through direct support and sensible policy decisions from governments to ensure that aviation can endure, rebuild connectivity, and fuel a global economic recovery.

The findings show that the impact remains uneven with different regions experiencing different challenges and requiring different policy decisions and support from governments to lay the foundation for recovery.

With some positive signs of recovery, especially in countries with high rates of vaccination, a sustained global recovery will only be realized with an escalation of vaccination campaigns, the continued development of digital health passes, and coordinated and cohesive policy support from governments.

Air cargo was less impacted by COVID 19, with volumes decreasing by only 8.9%, to an estimated 109 million metric tonnes in 2020, equivalent to 2016 levels (110 million metric tonnes).

For airports, revenues are tightly correlated to traffic levels but, like many other capital-intensive businesses, a large proportion of airport costs remain fixed and do not fall at the same level as traffic throughput and revenues during the crisis. Even with reduced operations, the closure of terminals and staff layoffs, this imbalance remains.

Airports in China occupied seven of the top ten positions in 2020. Atlanta slipped to second position, having seen a reduction in passenger traffic of 61.2%. Chengdu and Shenzen both moved up 21 places, Kunming 29, Xi’an 30 while Shanghai moved up 37 places.
Dubai retained its position as the world’s busiest international airport in 2020. Amsterdam and Heathrow swapped places. Istanbul and Doha both moved up eight positions in the table.