United Airlines said Tuesday it will kick off the largest transatlantic expansion in its history, adding or resuming 30 flights in the next eight weeks and growing capacity in the market by 25% compared to 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic began.
Much of the expansion will come at Newark Liberty International Airport, United’s primary transatlantic hub, which, like other gateway airports, was hit hard by the pandemic. This year, Newark will have 421 daily departures in May and June, up from 405 daily departures in June 2019.
It’s a far cry from 2020, when the Newark hub had just 60 departures in May and 115 departures in June. During the pandemic, the airline industry’s focus shifted away from gateway airports and to interior hubs like Charlotte and Denver. An exception was Miami, a gateway to South America, where travel returned early.
But this summer is shaping up as the summer of Europe, particularly for Newark. By June, United will operate 40 daily departures from Newark to 33 transatlantic destinations.
With the current round of 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, the carrier said.
“In the throes of the pandemic, there were many people who thought international travel was not going to come back,” Patrick Quayle, senior vice president of international network and alliances at United, told reporters on a media call.
“There are a lot of pundits out there saying international travel is going away,” he said. “[But] this is something we were seeing early on, something we’ve been working on for two years. This is work we did in anticipation of travel coming back. [It’s] why we were so upbeat on our first-quarter call.”
Beginning May 28, Newark will have seven daily departures to London Heathrow. Including all of its U.S. hubs, United will offer 22 daily Heathrow flights. Newark will also get a second daily Dublin flight starting April 23, a daily Nice flight starting April 29, a second daily Frankfurt flight starting May 26 and a second Rome flight, operating five times weekly, starting May 27.
Other new Newark destinations include Ponta Delgado in the Azores starting May 13; thrice weekly to Bergen, Norway, starting May 20, the only U.S.-Bergen service; thrice weekly to Palma de Mallorca, Spain, starting June 2; and thrice weekly to Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands, starting June 9.
United has been aggressive in adding flights. It said it will offer more service to Spain than any other U.S. carrier, despite the American-Iberia joint venture partnership.
Also, last week, both United and Delta began Boston-Heathrow service on April 14. The flight is United’s only transatlantic flight that does not serve a United hub. Boston Logan is a hot spot, not only one of two key airports for the American-JetBlue Northeast Alliance but also an airport where Delta Air Lines quietly seized market leadership during the pandemic.
United’s Newark powerhouse June transatlantic destinations will also include Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Cape Town, Delhi, Dubrovnik, Edinburgh, Geneva, Johannesburg, Lisbon, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Naples, Paris, Porto, Reykjavik, Shannon, Stockholm, Tel Aviv, Venice and Zurich. Trans-Pacific service has still not been restored, but in June, United will add back Newark-Tokyo.
Systemwide, United’s June transatlantic flights will include 96 daily departures to 36 destinations.
Of course, United is not the only airline expanding across the Atlantic.
This summer, Delta will offer more than 510 weekly flights to Europe, a capacity increase of 143% from summer 2021. From New York JFK, Delta will operate up to 27 daily departures to 20 European destinations, with service restored to Zurich, Brussels, Edinburgh, Copenhagen and Prague. (United said it has delayed plans to restart Prague.)
In Boston, Delta will operate nine daily flights to nine transatlantic destinations. In Atlanta, Delta will operate up to 17 daily transatlantic departures to 14 destinations, including three daily flights to Amsterdam and two each to London and Rome
This summer, American will serve 17 transatlantic destinations, with 59 daily transatlantic departures in June. From its principal transatlantic hub in Philadelphia, American will operate 12 daily departures to 11 destinations: Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Paris, Dublin, Rome, Heathrow (twice daily), Lisbon, Madrid, Venice (starting May 5) and Zurich.