United Airlines is planning another big schedule increase for trans-Atlantic travel, in a bet that consumers will continue to shell out for international trips, some of which they had put off for years.
Next summer, United says it will fly to 37 cities in Europe, Africa, India and the Middle East, a total it said is more than other U.S. airlines combined. It will also bring back destinations including a nonstop flight from its Newark Liberty International Airport hub in New Jersey and Stockholm on a Boeing 757 on May 27. It last served that city in 2019.
Airline executives have recently reported a strong summer for European travel in particular. United said demand was up 20% from 2019 during the summer peak. Ticket sales have been robust into the fall, prompting some carriers to maintain more off-peak flights to chase that revenue.
Despite strong demand and revenue from high fares, airlines were hamstrung by a series of challenges this summer such as aircraft delivery delays and shortages, and chaos from staffing shortages at major European hubs like those in London and Amsterdam, which prompted airlines to curb capacity.
“This is a schedule we believe we can operate,” Patrick Quayle, United’s senior vice president of global network planning and alliances, told reporters. He said the carrier is working closely with airports and other industry members to ensure it isn’t overshooting.
Quayle estimated United’s trans-Atlantic schedule during the peak summer period next year will be 30% larger than in 2019 and about 10% bigger than in 2022.
Inflation, a slower rebound in business travel and other issues still loom over demand for 2023. London’s Heathrow Airport warned Tuesday that travel demand is “uncertain.”
When demand was weaker in the Covid pandemic, United experimented with its route map, offering destinations such as Palma de Mallorca in Spain and Ponta Delgada in Portugal’s Azores. Those flights are returning though service to Bergen, Norway, didn’t make the cut for 2023.
United said Wednesday it will start flights on May 25 between San Francisco and Rome on a 777-200ER, part of the carrier’s big investment in service to Italy. On the same day, it will start seasonal service to Shannon, Ireland, from Chicago O’Hare International Airport on a Boeing 757 and daily flights to Barcelona, Spain, from Chicago on a 787 Dreamliner.
It will also offer flights from Washington Dulles International Airport to Berlin on a Boeing 767, starting May 25. The carrier plans to fly 23 daily flights to London Heathrow next summer.
On March 25, United will start service between Newark and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on a Boeing 777-200ER, flights it announced last month under a new partnership with Emirates.
Delta Air Lines is also ramping up service to Europe for next spring and summer, growing its trans-Atlantic capacity by 8% from 2022.
Its additions include a nonstop to Geneva, more London service and a resumption of daily Berlin flights, all from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.