Despite higher fuel prices and the Ukraine conflict, United Airlines claims demand for trans-Atlantic travel is increasing.
In comparison to 2019, the airline expects to fly 25% more across the Atlantic during the peak spring and summer travel season, adding new destinations such as Bergen, Norway, Amman, Jordan, and the Azores, Portugal. New routes and frequencies are being added by United, including services to London, Zurich, Munich, Milan, and Nice, France.
On a conference call with reporters on Monday, Patrick Quayle, United's senior vice president of international network and alliances, said the increased demand "was something we anticipated and something we're seeing effects of."
Domestic roundtrip tickets in the United States now average $357, up 23% from three years ago, but international fares from the United States are 1% lower at $848, according to Hopper, a travel and fare-tracking company.
United is tightening its schedule as it grapples with some issues, including a longer-than-expected process to resume flying its 52 Pratt & Whitney-powered Boeing 777s following an engine failure last year, delivery delays for new Boeing Dreamliners, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and a cost increase.
"In terms of demand, we haven't observed any softening," Quayle said of the carrier's easternmost European destinations, such as Germany and Croatia. However, he added that demand for connections to cities further east in countries like Poland and Romania, which are served by United's partner Lufthansa, may be affected.
For trans-Atlantic flights, Quayle said United is seeing "solid" demand for more expensive goods like its Polaris business class and premium economy class. He also stated that cross-Atlantic business travel is resuming.
The grounded 777s are expected to return in mid-May, and the airline has no plans to increase capacity beyond what it has planned if they return sooner. The planes, however, might be used for cargo flights, which have been a bright spot throughout the Covid pandemic, according to Quayle.
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