United Airlines at LAX
- Airlines are expanding their international networks to and from the US in 2022 despite the Omicron variant.
- New destinations include places like Jordan, Qatar, India, Spain, Portugal, Norway, and Finland.
- However, some experts say country border restrictions in response to Omicron could impact the routes.
The airline industry has been on a rollercoaster ride of uncertainty as the pandemic continues into 2022, but that is not stopping airlines from expanding their international networks.
Since the summer, the demand for air travel has been booming as many people finally feel comfortable flying on aircraft again. With the surge, the big three carriers in the US, including Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and American Airlines, as well as foreign carriers, have been eager to bring back their long-haul markets and have announced a plethora of new international routes.
However, the rise of the Omicron variant has added some uncertainty to the equation. Fitch Ratings, a credit rating agency, lowered its projected global air traffic from 15% below 2019 levels to 30%, citing “slow rebound in international traffic and constrained business travel.” Nevertheless, some airlines do not believe the new variant will impact the launch of the new international service.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told reporters in early December that the company is seeing some cancellations, but it is “too early to tell.” Regardless, he said he is optimistic about future demand, saying he does not think bookings will decrease as much as they did for the Delta variant, according to CNBC.
Meanwhile, when asked if their 2022 international network will be impacted by Omicron, American, Delta, and United told Insider their routes are still on track to operate.
“Our scheduled start dates remain intact, albeit tentative in nature pending the impact of external factors that may necessitate change, as has been the case in regards to international routes, especially throughout the pandemic,” Delta told Insider.
However, whether or not airlines want to fly to these places, Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group, explained it depends on how countries respond to the Omicron variant.
“We are not sure if countries will impose new restrictions on US visitors, like pre-arrival COVID tests,” he said. “We also do not know how open or locked down the key cities, attractions, and businesses that cater to tourists are going to be, or if conventions, conferences, and offices will be open. All of these factors affect leisure and business travel.”
Most of the high-profile routes coming in 2022 are to Europe or the Middle East, with many Asian countries being left behind by carriers. Harteveldt explained that this is mostly due to the continent’s slow recovery and delayed opening of country borders.
American Airlines’ vice president of network planning Brian Znontins echoed Harteveldt, telling Insider that demand to Asia will take a year or two to rebound. Moreover, he explained bilateral issues with the Chinese government have impacted the airline’s return to Shanghai and Beijing.
“They [the Chinese government] are only letting us fly two times a week to China right now, which is well below the bilateral negotiations between the US and Chinese permits,” Znontins told Insider.
Here’s a closer look at 13 high-profile international routes coming in 2022.
Between New York and Doha, Qatar
American is launching an all-new daily route to the Middle Eastern city of Doha, Qatar on June 4 using a Boeing 777 aircraft. The flight will operate alongside the airline’s Oneworld partner Qatar Airways, which also operates daily service to the country.
“We continue to creatively find ways to build a network that gets customers where they want to go when they are ready to travel,” American’s vice president of network planning, Brian Znotins, said. “Adding Doha to our expansive global network and resuming a significant portion of our European routes provides our customers with more choices as they plan next year’s vacations.”
Between Dallas/Fort Worth and Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv cityscape.
Francesco Russo/View Pictures/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
American postponed its service between Dallas and Tel Aviv this year due to “continued entry restrictions into Israel and the slower-than-expected return of international business travel,” the airline told The Points Guy.
However, the company is hoping to officially launch the flagship route come March 5, though the delay of Dreamliner deliveries from Boeing has forced American to change the aircraft. Instead of operating on a Boeing 787-9, the thrice-weekly route will use a Boeing 777-200ER, according to Aviacionline.
Between Seattle and Bangalore, India
Snehal Jeevan Pailkar/Shutterstock
American’s high-anticipated route between Seattle and Bangalore is finally launching on October 29 using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The daily service will be the carrier’s longest route once its launches, covering a whopping 8,078 miles. The route, which was initially scheduled to start in October 2020, is intended to serve corporate customers looking to travel to the heart of India’s tech industry.
Moreover, it will serve as a gateway to the US via American’s Oneworld alliance partner Alaska Airlines, which can shuttle international passengers from India through its domestic network, according to the carrier.
“India is a grossly underserved market, despite the number of businesses with a major presence in both India and the West Coast,” Vasu Raja, American’s senior vice president of network strategy, said in a press release. “By adding Seattle to Bangalore, we’re giving customers from more than 70 U.S. cities access to India in one stop or less — versus the two, three, or four stops they’d have to make to get there in the past.”
Between San Francisco and Bangalore, India
Julius Bagnas / EyeEm / Getty Images
United is also heading west across the Pacific to Bangalore, though it is planned to launch ahead of American on May 26 using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The daily service will be the carrier’s longest route at 8,701 miles and will compete with Air India.
Like American, United is hoping to tap into the business demand heading to India, connecting the two tech hubs of San Francisco and Bangalore, according to the carrier.
Between Washington D.C. and Amman, Jordan
United is launching to a handful of new international destinations next year, including five to “new, unexpected places,” according to Patrick Quayle, United’s senior vice president of international network and alliances. One of which is thrice-weekly service between Washington D.C. and Amman beginning May 7 using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The carrier will compete with Royal Jordanian on the route.
“I think United’s announcement shows a bold sense of optimism for summer 2022 travel demand,” Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider. “There are no blinding glimpses of the obvious when it comes to the route additions that they have made. These are compelling leisure destinations.”
The announcement is the carrier’s longest transatlantic expansion to date, according to the carrier.
Between Newark and Ponta Delgado, Portugal
Ponta Delgado, Portugal.
A. Storm Photography/Shutterstock
The second United route starting next summer is between Newark and Ponta Delgado operating daily beginning May 13. The seasonal route will operate through September 28 using a Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft and face competition from Portuguese carrier Azores Airlines.
The choice to use a MAX 8 comes as many airlines start opting for narrowbody jets on routes across the Atlantic because of their high efficiency and profitability for low-demand city pairs.
Between Newark and Bergen, Norway
The third United route starting next year is between Newark and Bergen operating thrice-weekly beginning May 20. The seasonal route will operate through September 23 using a Boeing 757-200 aircraft and face no competition.
Like the route to Portugal, the airline will use a narrowbody jet on the route.
Between Newark and Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
The fourth United route starting next year is between Newark and Palma de Mallorca operating thrice-weekly beginning June 2. The seasonal route will operate through September 22 using a Boeing 767-300ER aircraft and face no competition.
Between Newark and Tenerife, Spain
The fifth “new, unexpected” United route starting next year is between Newark and Tenerife operating thrice-weekly beginning June 9. The seasonal route will operate through September 29 using a Boeing 757-200 aircraft and face no competition.
Between Frankfurt and St. Louis, Missouri
Lufthansa will start service between Frankfurt and St. Louis beginning June 2022. The airline has not revealed details about the number of frequencies or aircraft type, but the historic flight will be the first time in nearly 20 years the airport has offered transatlantic service.
The move comes as the St. Louis Port Authority and local business group Greater St. Louis Inc., along with a handful of its members, put up a collective $5 million in subsidiaries to operate in the city. St. Louis has a number of large international corporations in the metropolitan area, including some tied to Germany, including pharmaceutics company Bayer AG, seed company KWS, and chemical company Merck KGaA, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Between London and Portland, Oregon
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British Airways is launching its service between London Heathrow and Portland on June 3 using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The route will operate five times weekly with fares starting at $562. The highly-anticipated route was initially scheduled to start in June 2020 but was postponed due to COVID-19, according to Travel Weekly.
The route is part of BA’s joint venture with American Airlines, Finnair, Iberia, LEVEL, and Aer Lingus, known as the “Atlantic Joint Business.”
Between Helsinki and Seattle
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Another route launching as part of the Atlantic Joint Business is Finnair’s service between Helsinki and Seattle. The seasonal route will operate thrice-weekly through October 29 using an Airbus A330 jet. The carrier will face no competition and tickets start at $877.
The route will be an important feeder for Oneworld alliance partner Alaska Airlines, according to Travel Weekly. The Seattle-based carrier can be a gateway for US-bound international travelers via its strong domestic network.
Between New York and Stockholm, Sweden
Delta Air Lines is starting daily service between New York and Stockholm on June 1 using a Boeing 767-300 aircraft. The airline will compete with several carriers on the route, including Finnair, United, and Scandinavian Airlines. The flight marks the first time in five years Delta has operated the route, the carrier told Insider.
“We’re focused on bringing back the routes and destinations our customers love. Customers planning next summer’s European vacation will discover more routes, premium seats, and destinations in 2022,” Delta said in a statement.