As Europe Reopens, United Airlines Expects A Record 2022

Europe has gradually been reopening for Americans. Whether with vaccination or testing requirements, United has been able to fly more people across the Atlantic than it has since early 2020. However, the travel ban for Europeans coming to the United States lingers. With the recovery continuing in earnest and hope for European travel bans to come down, United Airlines is eyeing 2022, and it thinks it could be one of the best seasons ever.

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United Airlines sees a lot of promise for Europe in 2022. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

United looks to summer 2022

Speaking on the carrier’s second-quarter earnings call, Andrew Nocella, Chief Commercial Officer at United Airlines, stated the following on Europe:

“Our European schedule this summer is quickly ramping back up. However, with continued restrictions on Europeans from entering the U.S. and on U.S. travelers from entering key countries in Europe, including the U.K., we anticipate that it’ll be the spring of 2022 prior to resuming a normal schedule.”

2022 will be the year when United can get back to business in Europe. President Biden has maintained the travel bans barring foreign nationals who were physically in Europe from coming to the United States. The restrictions do not apply to American citizens returning from Europe.

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While United is flying some very full planes over to Europe, loads back to the United States are thinner due to the travel bans. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

United is pushing for a relaxing of travel bans across the Atlantic. CEO Scott Kirby opened the earnings call with these remarks:

“And while the U.S. isn’t yet open to Europeans, the data and science, including the demonstrated safety of air travel, similar vaccination and case rates, and similar level of variants in Europe and the U.S., support an opening and we expect that to happen at some point. And when the borders do, we expect to see the same robust, hockey-stick increase in demand that we’ve already seen domestically.”

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The key for 2022: pent-up demand

United has seen the trends from 2021. When a country reopens, Americans have rushed to book, and the same could play out when the US reopens for Europeans. Assuming a reopening of nonessential travel for Europeans to America, United expects a strong 2022. As Mr. Nocella stated:

“We expect our summer Atlantic load factors to be around 70% in 2021, 16 points lower than 2019, we have to add that we think the summer of 2022 across the Atlantic has the potential to be our best season ever, with pent-up demand and easing border restrictions.”

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United’s bullish outlook in the international market is one reason why the carrier has kept its widebody fleet intact. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

A 70% transatlantic load factor is quite respectable, considering the ongoing travel restrictions and the fact that United is flying some large equipment, including the Boeing 787-10, across the pond.

Still, many Americans have lost out on a summer of European travel in 2021 just because of the uncertainty. United certainly saw early bookings in April for flights to Greece, Croatia, and Iceland. And, in many reopened markets, some leisure travelers may also be getting priced out because of the reduced capacity across the Atlantic, the increased demand for travel to Europe, and the delay in reopening certain markets.

United will have the option to increase capacity in the market

United Airlines will have 30 more widebodies in its fleet at the start of next summer than it had entering the crisis. If Americans choose to fly to Europe over trips they would have traditionally done to closed markets or to go to a place they have not been to in, quite literally, years, United Airlines is sitting on the requisite aircraft to add more flying to Europe.

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The factors are coming together to give United its best transatlantic summer in 2022, but some factors are still outside of United’s control. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

United has been bullish about its international prospects. This is particularly true in Europe, where some of the competition and capacity that previously flew across the Atlantic will no longer be flying. This means more customers will become available to United Airlines and perhaps give the airline back some pricing power in the market.

Altogether, United Airlines thinks it has a lot to look forward to in Europe in 2022.

Are you going to fly United to Europe in 2022? What do you think about United’s outlook? Let us know in the comments!