The Most Notable New Airline Routes This Week

Welcome to our 18th routes newsletter! Doesn’t time fly? This week includes a selection of the routes introduced in the past seven days. Why not sign up and receive our newsletter in your email inbox every week?

Aer Lingus Manchester to Orlando
Aer Lingus has inaugurated its second route from Manchester to the US. Photo: Orlando International Airport.

Aer Lingus begins Manchester to Orlando

Orlando International now has a second airline from Manchester in the form of Aer Lingus UK. With its first flight on December 11th, the carrier currently offers four weekly services using the 317-seat A330-300, but it’ll rise to once-daily from May onwards. It competes against a once-daily Virgin Atlantic A330 service in winter and 12-weekly in summer. From March, it’ll also compete indirectly against a four-weekly TUI service to Melbourne Orlando International.

EG935 leaves Manchester at 11:00 and arrives in Florida at 15:50 local time. Returning, EG934 departs at 17:50 and arrives back at 07:10 the next day. The launch of Manchester-Orlando follows Barbados and JFK. Aer Lingus is attracted to Manchester following Thomas Cook’s exit in 2019, which resulted in an enormous capacity reduction.

Aer Lingus’ Orlando service will rise from four to seven-weekly in summer. The extra flights are from Barbados, operating only in the winter. Photo: Orlando International Airport.

Qatar Airways takes off to Odesa

The sizeable Ukrainian city of Odesa, located by the Black Sea near the Moldavian border, is now connected non-stop to Doha. This follows Qatar Airways inaugurating a three-weekly service using A320s on December 9th. QR309 leaves Doha at 08:30 and arrives at 12:45. To ensure strong onward connectivity, QR310 departs four hours later and returns home at 22:50.

The 1,861-mile (2,994km) route has a block time to Odesa of five hours and 15 minutes. The 132-seat A320 is mainly scheduled, with 12 business seats and just 120 in economy. Odesa is the airline’s second destination in Ukraine after Kyiv Boryspil, which began in August 2017, operates twice-daily, and also uses the A320.

Qatar Odesa
Qatar Airways now serves two destinations in Ukraine. Photo: via Qatar Airways.

Spirit launches first flights to Palmerola

Ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit has started service to Palmerola, the newly opened commercial airport in Honduras around 52 miles (84km) from the country’s capital, Tegucigalpa. The capital’s main airport is Toncontín, renowned for its tricky approach and very close to the center.

Spirit was the first airline to inaugurate Palmerola, also known as Comayagua for the city it is near. It happened on December 11th from both Miami and Houston International. Miami is four-weekly and Houston once-daily. They’ll be joined by a once-daily service from Fort Lauderdale on January 10th. It’ll leave Fort Lauderdale at 23:50 and arrive in Palmerola at 01:24 local time. Returning, it’ll depart at 02:50 and arrive back at 06:10.

Palmerola is Spirit’s second destination in Honduras, complementing San Pedro Sula served since July 2007, initially from Fort Lauderdale and later Houston (May 2015) and Orlando (October 2018).

Spirit was the first airline to serve Palmerola. Photo: via Spirit.

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Atlanta welcomes second non-stop to Panama

Panama’s Copa Airlines has started its 13th route to the US: Atlanta. This joins existing routes to Boston, Chicago, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, JFK, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Francisco, Tampa, and Washington. (San Juan, often considered domestic, is also served.)

The first flight to Atlanta departed on December 12th, with the 1,721-mile (2,769km) link operating four-weekly using the B737-800. These have 160 seats: 16 in business and 144 in economy. In the current week, it competes against an eight-weekly Delta offering using B737-900ERs.

CM880 leaves Panama City at 09:26 and arrives at 13:37. Returning, CM881 departs at 16:05 and arrives back at 20:18. It is, of course, designed for connectivity over the carrier’s so-called ‘Hub of the Americas.’

Copa Atlanta
Copa joins Delta on Panama City to Atlanta. Of course, both carriers target different passengers. Copa: those over Panama City across Latin America. Delta: those over Atlanta across North America and Europe. Photo: Atlanta Airport.

Virgin Australia begins 3 Gold Coast routes

The Australian tourist mecca of the Gold Coast is now better served, with Virgin Australia adding Cairns, Hobart, and Launceston. It is the first time in more than 20 years that Gold Coast to Launceston (in Tasmania) has had non-stop service despite more than 44,000 round-trip point-to-point passengers in 2019. Virgin competes against Jetstar to both Cairns and Hobart, the latter previously operated by Virgin’s defunct low-cost subsidiary, Tiger.

Virgin Australia began the 920-mile (1,481km) link to Cairns on December 9th, and it operates once-daily using 176-seat B737-800s. It competes head-to-head with up to two daily Jetstar flights using 186-seat A320s. The market has barely developed. In 2004, there were about 195,000 round-trip seats; by 2019, that had risen to 211,000. Jetstar has dominated it and is the first time in many years that it has had direct competition.

Virgin Australia
What a truly outstanding cake and celebratory photo! Shown is Chris Mills, CEO of Queensland Airports Limited. Photo: via Gold Coast Airport.

Punta Cana gets TAP Air Portugal

The Dominican Republic tourist destination of Punta Cana is now connected non-stop to Lisbon with TAP Air Portugal. It began on December 11th and has three weekly services during the winter, reducing by one in the summer. It uses the A330-900, with 34 seats in business (fully lie-flat), 96 in economy plus (with 3″ of extra legroom), and 168 in normal economy.

TAP competes head-to-head with Iberojet on the 3,786-mile (6,902km) route. Of course, both carriers target different passengers, with the schedule of Portugal’s flag carrier (leaving Lisbon at 17:00 and arriving 10:20/10:35) obviously designed for Europe-wide connectivity over its Lisbon hub.

TAP to Punta Cana
Over 30 European destinations have two-way connectivity over Lisbon to/from Punta Cana. This image is before the first flight left to the Dominican Republic. Photo: TAP Air Portugal.

Qantas jets from Sydney to Fiji

Following Fiji reopening its borders, Qantas recommenced Sydney to Nadi, the main Fijian airport, on December 11th. The 1,970-mile (3,170km) route currently operates three-weekly (later four-weekly) using 174-seat B737-800s. It is one of four airlines on the airport-pair, joining Fiji Airways (17-weekly by the B737 MAX 8 and A350), Virgin Australia (four), and Jetstar (three).

Qantas Fiji
After an absence of about two decades, Qantas resumed Sydney-Fiji in 2019. Then the pandemic hit, but it is back again. Photo: Fiji Airports.

BA returns to two US airports & Doha begins

Nashville and New Orleans welcomed British Airways back from Heathrow on December 9th. Both routes are three-weekly, although Nashville will rise to five-weekly next summer. They each use the 214-seat B787-8. They were joined the same day by the launch of Gatwick to Doha (flown from Heathrow until March 2020), while Heathrow to Salzburg resumed the next day.

BA Nashville
What a cake! Photo: Nashville International Airport.

That’s it for the 17th edition of our routes newsletter. To get something like this in your inbox every week, please sign up for our weekly routes newsletter.