As Europe is slowly coming back to life, albeit a shell of its usual pre-summer vibrant and busy self, US President Trump has hinted he may soon open up for travelers from certain European countries. However, as of yet, the overall and indefinite ban on travelers from the EU is still in place. So why are some European airlines already resuming transatlantic flights?
Three main factors
News of routes and schedule resumptions makes for happy reading these days. Although, at times, it can also be confusing. Even if President Trump hinted at a press conference recently that he could soon open up for travel from European countries that are “making good progress,” there is still no real end date in sight for the lifting of the ban.
Yet, many EU airlines have seen fit to add or are in the process of adding US destinations back to their schedules. While passenger demand may not be enough on their own to justify the increase in flights, there are a few factors that come into play.
To maintain as logistically challenging an operation as a transatlantic network with pilot, cabin and maintenance crew schedules is no mean feat. While airlines may not have a crystal ball, Trump’s eagerness to open up the US economy has also been a sign that he is ready to leave the most acute COVID-fighting measures behind him.
Airlines may well want to be ready and fully operational, rather than slightly dazed and drowsy as demand could potentially pick up overnight when months of pent-up reunions and family visits are allowed to happen across the pond again. Even if the surge might be temporary, it could be best not to get caught flat-footed.
Citizens and permanent residents
While travelers from Europe may have been banned overall, US citizens and those holding residency permits, such as corporate contract employees, are still allowed to return home. If they have been to the Schengen area within 14 days before their arrival, however, they must undergo coronavirus testing.
While the few American citizens that remained in the EU during the worst phases of the pandemic and now wish to return home may not be enough to justify a schedule increase, when combined with the potential for carrying cargo in the hold along with their luggage, it might just help airlines break even.
As Simple Flying has often reported over the past few months, the cargo that would usually fly in the bellies of passenger planes found itself with no means of transportation when planes were grounded in the wake of COVID-19. Many carriers have even turned some passenger widebodies into makeshift cargo-only freighters to increase capacity.
Granted that it is better to have things up and running for when the ban is lifted, airlines may feel it is worth operating a few flights with fewer passengers than would normally be profitable if they can break even due to increased cargo demand. Goods were never banned from entering the US (or the other way around) after all, just people.
American Airlines’ Vice President of Network and Schedule planning recently said that the airline’s international route resumptions were driven by cargo demand.
Airlines resuming flights
Among the airlines recommencing their US flights are TAP Air Portugal, who began flying from Lisbon to New York last week, and is adding Miami and Boston (the latter from Ponta Delgada) to its schedule come July.
Alitalia has also just resumed its nonstop Rome to New York service, Brussels Airlines will do so from July 13th. Air France is already flying to several destinations from CDG, so is Lufthansa from Frankfurt, and KLM has a daily flight from Amsterdam to Newark.