The Brave New World
Of Post-Pandemic Flying
SUNDAY, JANUARY 22, 2023 --
Covid turned the travel world upside down and it is only now that airlines are beginning to rebuild their international schedules. To say it's chaotic and unclear out there is an understatement.
Here's my best shot of a roundup of changes you'll find this year if you want to book an international business trip or take a long-delayed holiday. This isn't a complete list--and doesn't include previously reported changes in Tactical Traveler--but it's a serviceable collection of new, revived or cancelled routes.
Needless to say, be careful out there in this brave new world.
Qantas now says its San Francisco-Sydney flights will resume on May 22. The route was suspended at the beginning of the pandemic and Qantas has delayed its restart several times.
LATAM is launching flights between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo beginning July 1. There'll be three weekly nonstops using Boeing 777-300ERs configured with 38 seatbeds in business class and 50 premium economy seats.
American Airlines is reviving flights to Santiago from its Dallas-Fort Worth hub. The carrier last operated the route in the summer of 2021.
CHINA AND HONG KONG
After three years of oppressive "zero Covid" lockdown, China and Hong Kong have flung open their doors for all comers. The problem? Covid is raging on the mainland because China hasn't vaccinated enough citizens and is relying on homemade vaccines, which are about half as effective as the shots used in most the rest of the world. And while Chinese carriers are eager to resume flights to the United States, U.S. airlines seem more reluctant. Moreover, political gridlock between the two countries may delay service resumptions for months. Two stats worth noting: According to industry schedule keepers OAG, only about 28,000 flights to China operated last year. In 2019, there were 484,000. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Tourism Board said about 600,000 people visited the city last year. In 2018, 65 million visitors arrived in what was then a putatively independent city.
Hawaiian Airlines will add a weekly flight between Honolulu and Rarotonga on May 20. It will use an Airbus A321neo configured with 16 recliners in Premium class, 45 premium economy seats and 128 coach seats. Hawaiian hasn't served the Cook Islands since 1993.
JetBlue Airways is launching a daily daylight flight to London on March 25. The so-called "poor man's Concorde" will depart New York/Kennedy at 8:30am and arrive at London/Heathrow at 8:30pm. Meanwhile, British Airways is adding a nonstop to Cincinnati from its Heathrow hub. Flights begin June 5 using Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners.
Ethiopian Airlines, which is building a comprehensive African network, will add nonstops between Atlanta and Addis Ababa beginning May 16. It'll be the carrier's sixth North American gateway.
Air France is overhauling its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. The first of the 12 planes began flying JFK-Paris yesterday. The others will be deployed on other North American routes during the spring and summer. The new business class of 48 seats will feature 17-inch monitors and Bluetooth connections to allow passengers to use their own noise-reducing headphones. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines, Air France's SkyTeam partner, is reviving Atlanta-Nice nonstops for the first time in a decade. Daily flights launch May 12 using Boeing 767 aircraft. And American Airlines will resume nonstops from Charlotte to Paris, a route it last flew in 2019.
Condor, a low-fare operator serving Frankfurt, now has four year-round North American gateways: New York/JFK, Los Angeles, Seattle and Toronto. New Airbus A330neo aircraft begin flying from JFK and Seattle in mid-February. The business class will be configured 1-2-1 and offer WiFi, USB ports, 17-inch monitors and Bluetooth connections for noise-reducing headphones. By the way, Condor already has moved to Terminal 7 at JFK. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines is resuming flights from Atlanta to Dusseldorf (May 9) and Stuttgart (March 26), two routes the carrier abandoned during the pandemic. The airline is also taking another shot at flying a nonstop between JFK and Berlin. The route begins again on May 25.
American Airlines appears to have permanently cancelled its nonstop route between Seattle-Tacoma and Bangalore, India. The flight was originally due to launch in 2020, but had been repeatedly delayed. Now it has totally disappeared from the AA schedule.
Aer Lingus resumes nonstops to Dublin from Hartford, Connecticut. Daily flights return on March 26 using Airbus A321neoLR aircraft configured with business class and coach seats. Aer Lingus dropped the route at the beginning of the pandemic. Meanwhile, United launches a daily flight to Shannon from its Chicago/O'Hare hub on May 25 using narrowbody Boeing 757 aircraft.
ITA, the state-owned successor to Alitalia, is already looking to sell itself off--Lufthansa now seems the odds-on favorite to buy--but the carrier is expanding. It will add San Francisco-Rome and Washington-Dulles nonstops this summer. The SFO run starts July 1 and will operate until October 28 and offer between three and five flights per week. The Dulles nonstop will operate June 2 to October 28 and run at least five times per week. Both routes will use Airbus A350 aircraft offering seatbeds in business class as well as both coach and premium economy service.
American Airlines continues its antipathy toward Israel flights. It dropped its planned Dallas/Fort Worth-Tel Aviv route last year and now it will end its Miami-Tel Aviv service on March 24. That's extremely odd since American upgraded the route to daily service in October. On the other hand, Delta Air Lines is upgrading its planned Atlanta-Tel Aviv nonstop to daily service. That route begins April 16.
Japan all but eliminated Covid-era barriers to entry, but U.S. carriers are not rushing to restore service. In fact, the airline industry trade group wants the Japanese government to extend use-it-or-lose-it slot waivers at Tokyo's close-in Haneda Airport until at least October.
Delta Air Lines says it will launch its first service to New Zealand on October 28. There'll be daily nonstops between Los Angeles and Auckland using Airbus A350-900 aircraft.
Operating in bankruptcy since the pandemic, SAS Scandinavian is searching for new routes to fly. Its creative solution: Nonstops from Newark to both Aalborg (Denmark) and Gothenburg (Sweden) using narrowbody Airbus A321LR jets. There'll be three roundtrips a week on each route starting April 27 and running through the summer. The new A321LRs are configured with 22 staggered seatbeds in business class configured 2x2 with several rows of 1x1 "throne" seating. The 12 premium economy seats are configured 2x2. Meanwhile, United Airlines has dropped service to Bergen, Norway, from Newark. In its place? A revived route from Newark to Stockholm, Sweden, a route United abandoned in 2019. Narrowbody Boeing 757-200s will operate on the run.
Delta Air Lines is resuming seasonal summer service to Edinburgh from Atlanta on May 25. The last time Delta flew the route was in 2007.
United Airlines will launch flights from its Newark hub and Malaga starting on May 31. There'll be three flights a week using United's narrowbody Boeing 757-200 aircraft. United will also add daily flights from its Chicago/O'Hare hub to Barcelona starting May 25. Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners will operate on that run.
Delta Air Lines will launch nonstops between New York/JFK and Geneva on April 20. It hasn't flown the route since 1993, shortly after it acquired the bulk of Pan Am's European network.
Column and JoeSentMe.com Copyright © 2023 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.