Delta Air Lines Expects A Good Fall For European Travel

With the northern summer season dawning, Delta Air Lines is preparing to fly its largest European schedule in two years. However, that schedule will still be far reduced compared to 2019. While this may seem a bad sign for transatlantic travel in the fall, Delta Air Lines is actually looking ahead to September and October, expecting those months to be some of the best for European travel this year.

Delta Boeing 767-300ER
Delta Air Lines still believes that Europe will be a strong bet this year. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta Air Lines looks to a European fall

Speaking at the Wolfe Transportation and Industrials Conference, President Glen Hauenstein discussed Europe. He explained his reasoning for expecting September and October to be excellent European travel:

“We’ve added things like Dubrovnik because it was open, in Croatia. We’ve added the highest level of capacity to Greece that we’ve had in recent history, with Atlanta and, in total double daily, with JFK.

“As Rome opened earlier in the process, we’ll have a very robust service into Italy for summer. What we think is that Europe will continue to open, and so that will push peak Europe travel, which is usually June, July, August, more into the September, October shoulder season. So,  I think we could see a continual build.

“October is usually actually one of the better months for travel to Europe, and if you haven’t been, it’s a great time to go to Europe […] and we think most of Europe will be open for travel.”

Delta A330-200
Europe is historically one of Delta’s strongest international markets in the summer. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The booking curve for the summer transatlantic market is starting to taper off. Most bookings for the summer now are for travel into July and August. Unlike domestic travel, passengers tend to schedule and book their international itineraries further out.

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Relying on a European reopening

Delta is expecting more of Europe to reopen as the summer progresses. While that hinders the airline’s ability to run service this summer, it does not preclude the carrier from adding new service or resuming services this fall.

There is evidence of pent-up demand for flights to Europe. However, the release of that demand depends entirely on which countries reopen for international travel and when they reopen.

Delta A330-900neo
Delta Air Lines has been pushing for a European reopening. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta is expecting the booking curve to shift for peak European travel. However, it will face some structural headwinds in the fall. Come September, schools are expecting to back to in-person classes, and corporates are expecting to return to the office.

But, given the recent trend to adapt to more remote work and companies changing their policies, it is also possible that more people than before the crisis would be able to take a trip to Europe in the fall. Delta’s hypothesis will certainly be put to the test. It is too early to know what final loads, yields, and bookings will look like this fall.

Delta A330-300
Delta will use the A330-300 on many routes to Europe. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

What about this summer?

Delta Air Lines is still operating a robust summer schedule to open destinations. Spain became the fifth European country, joining Croatia, Greece, Iceland, and Italy, in welcoming vaccinated travelers for tourism. Delta is running flights to all five countries this summer.

To Croatia

DL 767
Delta will fly the Boeing 767-300ER to Croatia. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

To Greece

DL Athens
Delta will fly two daily flights to Athens this summer. Rendering created at Great Circle Mapper

To Iceland

  • Currently serving Keflavik International Airport (KEF) from New York-JFK using a Boeing 757-200. This upgauges to a Boeing 767-300ER from July 2nd
  • Running new service from Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) to KEF onboard a Boeing 757-200
  • Resuming service from Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP) to KEF starts on May 27th, also using a Boeing 757-200
Delta Iceland
Delta Air Lines is flying three routes this summer to Iceland. Rendering created at Great Circle Mapper

To Italy

  • Running existing daily service from New York-JFK to Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) using an Airbus A330-300
  • Five-times-per-week service from ATL to Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (FCO) currently running with an Airbus A330-300; moves to daily service starting on May 26th
  • Three-times-weekly service to FCO from JFK currently running; moving to daily service from July 1st. Flights are also onboard Airbus A330-300s
  • New service from BOS to FCO starting on August 5th with a Boeing 767-300ER
  • Five-times-per-week service from ATL to Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE) starts on August 5th using a Boeing 767-300ER
  • Daily service from JFK to VCE starts on July 2nd using a Boeing 767-300ER
DL Italy
Delta will fly six routes to Italy this summer. Rendering created at Great Circle Mapper

These flights are in addition to Delta’s abilities to serve open destinations via its partners at Air France and KLM. Note in the case of Italy that, for now, passengers will need to fly Delta on a special quarantine-free flight to travel to Italy for leisure travel.

Are you planning a European vacation this fall? Where would you like to go (or recommend people to visit) in September and October? Let us know in the comments!