Bumper route launches in the run up to Christmas 2020
Doha – San Francisco
Qatar Airways began Doha – San Francisco on 15 December. Operating four-weekly, its 13,014-kilometre route uses A350-900s.
Of course, its schedule is – like its other North American routes – effectively the same to drive connectivity.
While Doha P2P demand is minimal (7,000 round-trip in 2019), it can expect wide-reaching demand over its Qatar hub.
Given similar timings from Los Angeles, applying Qatar Airways’ top-25 country markets from LAX to San Francisco shows total demand of over 1.5 million last year. Of course, India was by far the top, followed by South Africa, Pakistan, Iran, Jordan, Nepal, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sri Lanka.
Qatar Airways’ 14th destination in North America, Seattle, is coming on 15 March. We covered this in detail here.
Luton to Gibraltar
Wizz Air began Luton to Gibraltar on 11 December. Served twice-weekly year-round, the route currently has no direct competition.
This will change from the start of the summer season when easyJet resumes it on a twice-weekly basis from 30 March.
easyJet began Luton – Gibraltar in 2018 following the end of long-established Monarch on the route. At its peak in 2011, the market had over 147,000 seats, schedules data from OAG shows. However, with Monarch’s load factor of around 75%, capacity was greatly cut the following year.
London – Gibraltar, meanwhile, had its highest volume of seats in 2017, with 479,000. In this year, Gatwick, Heathrow, and Luton were connected to the British Overseas Territory across BA, easyJet, and Monarch. BA had just 708 more seats than easyJet.
Gibraltar’s Minister for Business, Tourism, Transport, and the Port, the Hon Vijay Daryanani MP, said: “I was delighted to welcome a new airline to Gibraltar and extra capacity for the North London market.
“Wizz Air UK is expanding quickly and I have no doubt that they will become long-term partners for Gibraltar. I negotiated personally with the airline to attract them to the Rock.
“Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar is committed to attracting an expansion of air services. I will continue to work hard at this and make sure that we have more airlines operating out of the airport than ever before.”
Latest route launches (A – Z by airline name)
Air Arabia Maroc launched Casablanca to Rennes on 18 December. Operating twice-weekly, the 1,705-kilometre service uses A320s.
This is the only route from Rennes to North Africa and it is the only such route in the past decade.
This winter, Air Arabia Maroc has 14 routes from Morocco to France involving seven French and five Moroccan airports. Marrakesh – Pau was operated in W19 but is not this winter.
Casablanca – Lyon is the carrier’s top route by seat capacity and Casablanca – Rennes its thinnest, OAG data shows.
Air Arabia Maroc will have very marginally more total seats to/from France in W20 than in W19 (+0.28%!). But given coronavirus, we’ll take it!
Air Canada started Toronto – Doha on 15 December. Operating three-weekly, the 10,899-kilometre route uses B787-9s.
This route is the result of the deepening partnership between Air Canada and Qatar Airways.
Fundamentally, it is also a way for Qatar Airways to circumvent the strict bilateral restriction between Qatar and Canada that means it only serves Montreal (four-weekly) using its own metal.
This is demonstrated by the timings. Air Canada’s new route arrives into Doha at 1630 and departs the next day at 0900 – both fitting perfectly into Qatar Airways’ North America timings.
The Canadian operator will have four routes to the Middle East in 2021. In order of two-way seats: Toronto to Tel Aviv; Toronto to Dubai; Toronto to Doha; and Montreal to Tel Aviv.
Nigeria’s Air Peace began Lagos to Johannesburg on 17 December using its sole B777-200ER.
The 4,511-kilometre route currently has no direct competition and is operated twice-weekly with an elapsed time of six hours in both directions.
It leaves Lagos at 0100, arrives Johannesburg at 0800, departs at 1100, and arrives back at 1600.
South African Airways has operated the route for years on which the airline had over 232,000 seats – its most – in 2014. It’ll resume the route on a daily basis from 1 February 2021.
Arik Air operated it until 2017 and depending on the year it variously used B737-800s, A330-200s, and A340-500s.
Virgin Nigeria operated it briefly in 2012 using A330-200s.
At its peak in 2014, Lagos – Johannesburg had over 462,000 seats, but this diminished to just 179,000 in 2019.
Alaska Airlines began San Diego to Jackson, WY, on 17 December. The 1,332-kilometre route operates five-weekly using 76-seat Embraer 175s until 11 April.
Booking data obtained via OAG Traffic Analyser shows that around 11,000 P2P passengers flew between the two in 2019.
This winter, Alaska Airlines has 29 routes from San Diego, with Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, San Jose, and Fresno top by flights.
Cancun, Fort Lauderdale, Jackson, Missoula, and Santa Barbara are all new this winter (versus W19). All have begun already except Missoula (11 March 2021) and Santa Barbara (18 March).
Speaking of Alaska Airlines’ Jackson route, Brian D’Amico, San Diego’s Program Manager, Air Service Development, said: “We have launched new non-stop service to Jackson, Wyoming, the gateway to the breath-taking Grand Teton National Park.
“This marks the first time San Diegans have had a non-stop link to the state of Wyoming.
“Thank you to our partners at Alaska Airlines for bringing us snow for Christmas and to our amazing station crew who go out of their way to make our passengers feel special!”
American began Daytona Beach to both Dallas Fort Worth and Philadelphia on 17 December. This brings to three the carrier’s network from the Florida airport this winter, joining Charlotte.
The 1,578-kilometre service to Dallas is served daily using CRJ-900s, while Philadelphia, 1,300 kilometres away, is five-weekly with the same type.
Of course, both routes will enable significant connectivity over the hubs, but they were also important unserved P2P markets that could be easily stimulated.
Excluding leakage to Jacksonville and Orlando, which could be significant, Dallas had 11,000 P2P traffic and Philadelphia 12,000.
Now the obvious P2P markets of New York, Washington, Chicago, Detroit, and Boston – some offering great connection potential depending on airline – remain unserved from Daytona Beach. (La Guardia was last served in 2019 and may return later.)
Again excluding leakage, these five had between 35,000 and 14,000 P2P passengers last year pre-stimulation.
This winter, Daytona Beach is served by American and Delta with four routes: Atlanta; Charlotte; Dallas; and Philadelphia.
American began Tampa to Key West on 17 December. Operating once-daily, the 387-kilometre uses Embraer 175s.
It competes directly with 16 weekly services by Silver Airways using ATR-42-600s, although this reduces to 12-weekly from early January.
In the past decade, AirTran (until 2012), Continental (2012), Southwest (2014), and United (2013) have all operated the route. Annual capacity peaked at almost 188,000 two-way seats in 2012.
Since Southwest’s end and American beginning this year, only Silver has operated it. Of course, this was reflected in seats, totalling between a maximum of 78,000 (2015) and a minimum of 63,000 (2016).
The entrance of American means 2021 seats are currently estimated to be almost 110,000, up 53% over pre-coronavirus 2019.
JetBlue began New York JFK to Georgetown, Guyana, on 11 December.
The 4,086-kilometre route to Northeast South America initially operates four-weekly using 200-seat A321neos. It then becomes once-daily non-stop from early S21, the carrier’s website shows.
JetBlue is now the third operator on this route. It joins Caribbean Airlines with three weekly services, later rising to four, and Eastern Airlines’ B767-operated thrice-weekly service (currently five-weekly around Christmastime).
JetBlue’s JFK service will be supplemented by San Juan, although this service will operate only from 15 January until 8 February.
Booking data obtained from OAG Traffic Analyser reveals that just shy of 199,000 flew between JFK and Georgetown in 2019. Over 122,000 non-stop P2P traffic was carried, almost all by Caribbean Airlines.
Of indirect traffic, almost 50,000 flew via Port of Spain with the same operator.
The market had a strong average one-fare fare (excluding any fuel surcharge, ancillaries, and taxes) of US$423 last year.
Silver Airways today, 17 December, took off from Tampa to Columbia, SC.
The 675-kilometre service operates twice-weekly using 46-seat ATR-42-600s.
In 2019, approximately 110,000 flew between Columbia and Florida, with Tampa the second-largest market with around 18,000 pre-stimulation.
Silver Airways’ network from Columbia now comprises Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Tampa.
From Tampa this winter, the regional carrier serves Charleston, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville (starting 21 December), Key West, Nassau, Pensacola, and Tallahassee alongside Columbia.
United Airlines began Chicago – Delhi on 10 December, returning to the USA two days later.
Flightradar24 shows that UA898 departed O’Hare at 1942 and arrived into Delhi at 2101 the following day after 13 hours and 49 minutes.
UA899 then departed from India at 0212 on 12 December and landed back into O’Hare at 0540 after just short of 15 hours.
United operates the 12,044-kilometre Chicago – Delhi service daily using 252-seat B787-9s. It competes with a six-weekly B777-300ER service by fellow Star Alliance partner Air India.
In 2019, the market had over 250,000 seats, flat since 2013. In 2011, however, it had over 427,000, the result of American Airlines being joined by Air India on a full-year basis.
Point-to-point traffic amounted to 127,000 last year, booking data via OAG Traffic Analyser shows; not surprisingly, Air India captured a good chunk of this. The carrier also captured a good amount of additional India to Chicago traffic.
It didn’t capture much traffic over Chicago, however, which United will be able to. But with the US3′ existing Delhi to Newark and San Francisco routes, how many additional O&Ds will be added to the pot?
United began Milwaukee to both Tampa and Fort Myers on 19 December.
The carrier serves Tampa four-weekly using Embraer 175s. Based on early January, it has direct competition from Southwest (13 weekly) and Frontier (two weekly). Collectively, these 19 weekly flights are up by more than one-third from 14 YOY.
United also serves Fort Myers four-weekly with E175s (three) and A319s (one). It competes directly with both Southwest (11 weekly) and Frontier (four), for the same total weekly flights (19) YOY.
The addition of both routes brings to six United’s network from Milwaukee in W20, up from four in W19.
United now serves Chicago O’Hare, Denver, Fort Myers, Houston Intercontinental, Newark, and Tampa from the Wisconsin airport.
This winter, Milwaukee has non-stop service to five Florida destinations, up from four YOY with the addition of Miami.
Mikwaukee’s Airport Director, Brian Dranzik, said: “United is extending the schedule for these flights well into next year, so that when travellers are ready to fly, more nonstop flights are available to popular destinations like Tampa and Fort Myers.”
Virgin Atlantic launched Heathrow – Islamabad on 12 December, coming just two days after the carrier began Manchester – Islamabad.
The carrier operates the 6,066-kilometre service three-weekly using B787-9s. It competes directly with a once-daily British Airways offering which uses B777-200ERs.
Heathrow – Islamabad was followed the next day by the launch of Heathrow – Lahore. This operates four-weekly and competes directly with four-weekly with BA.
Islamabad is by far the top Pakistani city to the UK, responsible as it is for 70% of non-stop capacity in 2019. Heathrow – Islamabad had almost 214,000 non-stop seats last year, OAG data shows.
As UK – Pakistan is so heavily driven by visiting friends and relatives demand, fares are not particularly high. This reflects a higher proportion of economy passengers.
Using booking data via OAG Traffic Analyser, Heathrow – Islamabad had an average one-way fare of USD$253 last year. This excludes a 20-30% fuel surcharge (kept by the airline) and taxes.
Heathrow – Delhi, by contrast, is 11% farther yet achieved a 25% higher average fare from a stronger mix of traffic.
Corneel Koster, Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Customer and Operating Officer, said that: “Pakistan boasts a huge opportunity for Virgin Atlantic, particularly as it has one of the largest foreign-born populations in the UK and US, and we anticipate the demand to visit friends and relatives will increase as travel starts to recover post Covid-19.”
Virgin Atlantic began Manchester – Islamabad on 10 December.
Operating four-weekly using 264-seat B787-9s, the 6,147-kilometre route competes directly with a twice-weekly offering by Pakistan International. To circumvent its EU ban, PIA is using wet-leased 285-seat A330-300 from Hi Fly.
This was the largest non-stop market between Pakistan and the UK last year, OAG data indicates. It had almost three in ten non-stop seats.
Including both non-stop and indirect traffic, over 295,000 flew between Manchester and Islamabad last year, booking data reveals, for PDEW of 404.
Windrose began Kyiv Boryspil to Skopje on 6 December, with the 1,173-kilometre route operating twice-weekly using former Dniproavia Embraer 145s.
This is the first time Ukraine and North Macedonia have been connected by air.
Around 4,000 flew indirectly between Skopje and Kiev last year, booking data obtained via OAG Traffic Analyser indicates.
Metin Batak, General Manager of operator TAV Macedonia, said, “We are very happy and proud that we’ve welcomed the first Windrose flight from Kiev at Skopje International Airport, celebrating the launch of this new scheduled route. This is not just the first positive step towards the recovery of Macedonian air traffic amid the Covid-19 pandemic, but also a historic milestone for Macedonian aviation, since Macedonia and Ukraine are connected by air for the first time.”
Windrose began Kyiv Boryspil to Belgrade on 11 December. It filled the void left by Air Serbia which operated the route until it was suspended in March 2020.
Operating twice-weekly by Windrose using 48-seat former Dniproavia Embraer 145s, the 1,004-kilometre service currently has no direct competition.
However, this will change for S21 as SkyUp is to begin a twice-weekly, B737-800-operated service from 30 March. Air Serbia is also due to resume the route, but it is currently not available for booking.
On a P2P basis, over 15,000 flew between the Ukraine and Serbian capitals last year, booking data obtained via OAG Traffic Analyser shows. Almost half flew indirectly.
Air Serbia had 13,672 seats between the two airports last year, OAG data shows. And with an estimated 11,114 passengers, both P2P and over Belgrade, the carrier had an SLF of 81%. Approximately 44% of Air Serbia’s traffic was over Belgrade.
Will Air started Luton to Funchal, Maderia, on 15 December.
The 2,511-kilometre route operates twice-weekly on a year-round basis. It is currently operated by A321s.
Luton – Funchal has always been a small market in terms of seats. In 2019, it had just 1,701 seats by TUI, OAG data shows, as a result of the route ending (it last operated May – September). Its ending explains Wizz Air’s entry.
Normally, this market would have 5,000 to 6,000 seats, which doesn’t of course take account of true leakage to other London airports.
London – Funchal’s total 351,000 seats last year, which was the third-highest volume in the past decade behind 2017 (368,000) and 2016 (358,000).
easyJet was the top carrier at city-pair level. It was one of four carriers operating between the two last year.
2021, however, will see FIVE airlines. Although likely to change, BA will be the greatest by seats to Funchal, followed by easyJet, Jet2, Wizz Air, and TUI, the latter from Gatwick.
Almost 6,000 indirectly flew from Rzeszów to Amsterdam in 2019, booking data shows.
The 1,181-kilometre route to Eindhoven will typically operate twice-weekly. But Wizz Air’s website shows that it is a limited-time affair, operating until 9 January and then only in February. Will it operate beyond then?
On the first day, the ULCC operated Gdansk – Eindhoven – Rzeszow – Eindhoven – Gdansk.
Rzeszów is Wizz Air’s ninth airport in Poland, with the country the carrier’s top by seat capacity. However, Romania is its most profitable nation – with Poland third.
Wizz Air has 26 routes from Eindhoven including eight – of the airline’s nine – Polish destinations. Only Szczecin isn’t served.
Dean Boljuncic, Eindhoven’s Head of Aviation Development & Partnerships, told us that: “This is a very important connection between Eindhoven Airport along with its surrounding Brainport region and Eastern Europe, especially for students and employees from these two High-Tech areas.
“The route is more focused on the future. Due to the similarity between the two destinations, we expect that after the pandemic, this will become a popular route that in addition to the VFR and economic travel motives, will also initiate leisure demand, both ways.”