United Airlines Sees Bright Spots In Europe With Hope For The UK

Speaking on the 2021 first-quarter earnings call, United Airlines’ executives indicated a strong demand for travel to Greece and Iceland after both countries announced a reopening for vaccinated travelers. Both countries are coming out on top of bookings for European travel at United this summer. Croatia also contributed to United getting thousands of new bookings on the first day of selling the routes.

United Boeing 787-10
United has seen strong demand for destinations in Europe open for vaccinated Americans. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

United Airlines sees bright spots in Europe

Andrew Nocella, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at United, stated the following on the airline’s first-quarter earnings call:

“We have seen in recent weeks, immediately after a country provides access with proof of a vaccine, leisure demand returns to the level of 2019 quickly. We’ve adjusted our schedule to take advantage of these opportunities this spring and summer.

”A few weeks ago, there was a rumor Greece was going to open. As soon as that rumor occurred, our Greece bookings took off. Athens is our second best booked Atlantic market this summer, and we’re excited to announce yesterday the addition of a second daily flight to Greece this summer from our Dulles hub complementing our Newark flight.

“Iceland, which also permits access with vaccine proof, is our best booked Atlantic destination this summer. As a result, we announced yesterday plans to operate Chicago service this summer in addition to our normal Newark service.”

United Boeing 787-9
There is plenty of pent-up demand for travel to Europe. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The summer season is generally one of the best seasons for transatlantic flights. United has historically beefed up schedules and run seasonal services to cater to the demand for Americans and Europeans wanting to hop across the pond for a leisure or business trip. Neither side got to do so in summer 2020, but summer 2021 appears to be looking much better.

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Hope for the UK

United knows that things can change very quickly. Signs show an encouraging trend of declining case counts and growing vaccinations in places like the United Kingdom. As such, the airline and its team are preparing to service that demand if it materializes. Mr. Nocella stated the following:

“We look forward to the opening of more and more countries as vaccine distribution increases and governments ease restrictions. We have the aircraft standing by, ready to fly this summer. For example, we anticipate operating between eight and ten daily flights to London Heathrow this summer, if and when a travel corridor is permitted to open.”

United Boeing 787 and 777
United survived 2020 with a larger fleet coming out than going in and having done no major retirements, which means the airline has the planes it needs to service demand when it comes back. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The United Kingdom, and specifically London, is one of the most important markets in Europe for US airlines and travelers. Travel between the two countries has been restricted since March of 2020, but there is some hope that robust vaccination programs in both countries can reopen that corridor sometime this summer. Virgin Atlantic and its US partner, Delta Air Lines, are also pushing for a UK reopening.

Indications for success

The new services United announced yesterday have so far proven successful. CEO Scott Kirby stated the following on the new routes:

“International demand is going to be entirely contingent on when borders open. We took over 3,000 bookings yesterday for our new services that we launched to Greece, Iceland and Croatia.”

United Boeing 767
The new routes United announced on Monday started off strong with bookings. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

With those as initial metrics, United is optimistic that people will want to book as other countries open up. Despite some headwinds, such as warnings against international travel and the requirement for a negative test to reenter the US, Americans have shown a willingness to travel.

Ultimately, United wants to fly passengers to Europe. With less competition in the market and a reduction in fleets across the world, United believes the transatlantic market will be a big boon for the airline in the future when people can travel again.

Are you bullish on a summer vacation to Europe? Will you fly any of United’s newly announced routes? Let us know in the comments!