Infotech Airlines ready for returning travelers to the United States

Airlines ready for returning travelers to the United States

Airlines are in battle order to welcome vaccinated travelers from 33 countries, authorized as of Monday, November 8 to return to the United States after eighteen months of border closures.

Air France, British Airways, United Airlines … to cope, the companies which usually depend heavily on transatlantic and transpacific routes have added flights, chosen larger planes, made sure to have enough staff.

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The White House’s announcement to lift restrictions had been awaited for months by families, business travelers, and tourists, and airline ticket reservations immediately jumped. British Airways thus saw searches for flights and stays to certain American cities explode by 900% for the days leading up to Christmas, compared to the week before the announcement by the American government. At American Airlines, the day after the announcement, reservations jumped 66% to the United Kingdom, 40% to Europe and 74% to Brazil.

Five Paris-New York per day for Air France

Companies have had to adapt. Air France recently went from three flights a day between Paris and New York, its busiest route, to five. On the route to Houston, it will replace the Airbus 330s with Boeing 777s, which offer more seats. The French company plans to return by March 2022 to 90% of its pre-Covid capacity in the United States, against 65% in October.

After a probable dip in January-February, the upturn should take place in spring and summer, the most profitable season for companies.

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At United, the flight schedule to Latin America and its tourist destinations has already returned to 2019 levels, but its international schedule remains at only 63%. The American company is betting big on transatlantic flights: in the spring it will open five new destinations (Jordan, Portugal, Norway, Spain), add flights to London, Berlin, Dublin, Milan, Munich and Rome, and reopen links interrupted during the pandemic including Frankfurt, Nice and Zurich.

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Traffic should also resume on the trans-Pacific side, but more slowly. Singapore Airlines, which took advantage in October of the opening of a corridor for vaccinated passengers between Singapore and North America, still plans to return to 77% of its pre-Covid flights between the two zones in December, notably with the reopening of lines to Seattle and Vancouver.

Voluntary departure plans

For Burkett Huey, air transport specialist at Morningstar, companies have enough planes to cope with the influx of travelers: “A few large aircraft were indeed withdrawn from the fleets in 2020 but nothing that completely changes the landscape”.

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The uncertainty mainly concerns employees, he said. In the United States, where companies put in place large voluntary departure plans at the start of the pandemic, American and Southwest recently had to cancel thousands of flights due to lack of staff to handle unusual disruptions.

The question remains above all of knowing when business travel, a cash cow for companies, will return to their pre-Covid levels. And that could play on the proposed connections, he says. In fact, for their transatlantic flights, companies have until now favored a few key lines with large aircraft, to include the comfortable seats for business travelers. They complemented the journeys with domestic flights in the United States and Europe.

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But with fewer business trips, they could offer more direct trips to tourists, using new planes that are smaller but now able to fly long distances, like the A321neo.

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