Recent Trends Bode Well For Airlines Hoping For A European Summer

The US-Europe transatlantic market is one of the most lucrative markets in the world. Airlines typically see excellent…

Recent Trends Bode Well For Airlines Hoping For A European Summer

The US-Europe transatlantic market is one of the most lucrative markets in the world. Airlines typically see excellent performance on routes in this market during the northern summer months. Capacity is also typically higher in this market, with the addition of seasonal leisure flights. Now, as Italy is welcoming Americans, airlines could be in for a better-than-expected summer for transatlantic travel.

US and European airlines could see a better summer if

Italy joins the list of reopenings

For Americans looking to go to Europe, four countries are now welcoming Americans. This includes Iceland, Greece, Croatia, and Italy. For travel to Italy, passengers have to be flying on one of the COVID-tested designated flights. The two US carriers currently running such flights are American and Delta.

Meanwhile, Iceland, Greece, and Croatia are relying on vaccinated passengers or, in the case of the latter two countries, those with negative test results to take a vacation. In all four of these countries, tourism is important to the local economy, and Americans have shown a willingness to travel to these destinations.

Boeing 777 Alitalia
Italy’s flag carrier, Alitalia, will benefit from the new relaxation of travel restrictions on American visitors. Photo: Getty Images

For airlines transporting passengers between these countries, the reopening presents an opportunity to reclaim a European summer. Between family, leisure, and business links between the US and Europe, the reopenings can be a big boon for airlines while reuniting passengers with family, culture, or business deals.

The EU is expected to open

Just a few weeks ago, the head of the European Union stated that she would like to see uniform guidelines to welcome Americans for tourism to Europe. June has been floated as the likely month for when much of Europe opens up for Americans.

However, these four countries are coming out ahead of the game and welcoming Americans. This could lead to some big rewards for those destinations. With June just around the corner, and Americans seeking to book getaways that are more certain to happen than others, countries that announce reopenings sooner rather than later are set to benefit.

Air France KLM Airbus
Airline groups have been turning to governments for support, but a European summer could alleviate these airlines’ financial pressures. Photo: Getty Images

Take, for example, Croatia, Iceland, and Greece. Shortly after it was clear all three countries were opened up for Americans, United Airlines announced new and resuming routes covering those destinations. The carrier, on the first day of announcing those routes, saw over 3,000 bookings. Passengers, showing a strong willingness to fly to Europe for a vacation, appear to reward destinations that have come to the front of the pack in reopening.

The longer other countries wait, the greater the possibility that Americans will vote with their wallets and secure travel to already open destinations. This could have ramifications in other countries that also rely heavily on tourism to power the local economy.

If more countries open up, then US and European airlines have a strong chance of reclaiming the summer transatlantic market. This could lead to a huge financial boon for airlines. With a chance to actually earn some revenue, this could also help save airline jobs and stimulate other sectors of the economy. Seeing other countries open up could be the incentive other European countries need to open their borders.

TAP Air Portugal
Portugal, a country that is also heavily dependent on tourism, could benefit from a reopening. Photo: Getty Images

The holdouts: US and UK

There are two holdouts, however. The United States and the United Kingdom were expected to provide some good news for international travel this month, though neither has largely materialized. Airlines have pushed – and will continue to push – for a broader reopening.

The US was expected to relax some travel restrictions from mid-May. This currently has not happened. However, given the abrupt public health guidance shift last week on face masks for vaccinated people, it is still possible that the US starts to relax its European travel bans.

British Airways Boeing 777 landing at Heathrow
British Airways’ CEO has also been pushing for more travel. Photo: Getty Images

The virus situation in Europe has been improving in the last few weeks. Coupled with increasing vaccinations, Europe does not show the same risks or signs as India, for example, and is far from the overwhelming surge in cases the continent saw a year ago. The US also has a policy mandating a negative test result for entry, even if passengers are fully vaccinated.

The UK also was expected to put the US on its Green List, enabling travel between the two countries without quarantine restrictions. That also did not materialize, and the UK chose to go with a more limited list of destinations.

Virgin Atlantic Airways Airbus A350
Virgin Atlantic has been lobbying hard for a US-UK travel corridor. Photo: Getty Images

The longer the UK and US hold out, the more likely it is that both countries will see more muted summers for air travel. This would be a huge disappointment for airlines looking to come back after over a year of near devastation.

Are you planning a European summer vacation? Let us know in the comments!

Source : Simple Flying More   

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Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner Chases Antarctica’s Southern Lights

It is that time of the year when the Aurora Australis light show starts lighting up the cooler…

Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner Chases Antarctica’s Southern Lights

It is that time of the year when the Aurora Australis light show starts lighting up the cooler reaches of the southern hemisphere’s night skies. Like chasing the northern lights, the further north, or in this case the further south you go, the more dazzling the show. Over the last few days, Qantas 787-9 Dreamliners have been heading down into the Antarctic regions, down as far as latitude -60° to see the light show.

Two Qantas 787 Dreamliners have been down in Antarctica chasing the southern lights. Photo: Brad Phipps/Chimu

Two Antarctic Aurora Australis light show flights over two days

On Friday, May 14, VH-ZNJ Longreach, a Qantas Boeing 787-9 headed out of Brisbane early in the evening for an 11.5 hour round trip down south. The following day, Saturday, May 15, VJ-ZNF Boomerang made the same trip from Sydney. Onboard were passengers primed to pull an all-nighter for a chance to see the southern lights at their best.

Unlike many scenic flights involving Qantas planes, including this month’s supermoon flight, these flights slipped under the radar without the usual Qantas-style blast of publicity. Why? These flights are charters, organized by a travel business, not Qantas. Consequently, the Qantas PR machine had some downtime.

The flights were organized by the Australian travel and adventure business, Chimu. In season, they organize Antarctic day flights from various Australian cities, taking passengers on a jaunt over the coast and mountains of East Antarctica. Chimu also charters a Qantas plane (formerly they used a 747-400, now it’s a downsized Dreamliner) for an annual New Year’s Eve Antarctic flight.

With Australians grounded and likely to stay that way for another 12 months or so, there’s plenty of demand for slightly off-beat trips like these that get you up in the air but abide by Australia’s strict no-international travel rules.

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Qantas sent two different Dreamliners, VH-ZNJ and VH-ZNF down to Antarctica this weekend. Photo: Qantas

Dreamliners zigzag across the skies chasing the southern lights

Friday evening’s flight from Brisbane, QF1336, pushed back at 19:45 local time. Aircraft tracking website RadarBox.com, has the flight tracking south and veering southeast out to sea near Newcastle, New South Wales. By 23:00, VH-ZNJ is out at longitude 154 and heading south.

Out deep in the Southern Ocean, the plane goes chasing the Aurora Australis light show, darting off in different directions until about 04:30 when the Dreamliner sets course for a pre-dawn flyover of Tasmania and thereafter a fairly conventional run into Brisbane, landing just after 07:00 on Saturday morning.

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Friday night’s flight from Brisbane. Source: RadarBox.com

“This light show is as much about shapes as it is about lights,” says Chimu. “To the naked eye, the Aurora Australis appears as bleached, majestic, ghostly curtains. Point your camera to this phenomenon and, due to the camera’s sensitivity to pick up more color, immediately it will display the greens and, even, pinks and reds of the chemical explosions between the sun’s particles and earth’s atoms, either way, the vision is extraordinary and unforgettable.”

On Saturday evening, Chimu chartered another Qantas Dreamliner, operating as QF1330, and ran an encore performance. That flight followed a similar tracking at Friday night’s flight. But once in the Antarctic zone, the tracking shows a zig-zagging flight path as the Dreamliner chased the lights.

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Saturday night’s Antarctica flight from Sydney. Source: RadarBox.com

Seat swaps and seat swabs, but otherwise your everyday bluechip Qantas service

While not, strictly speaking, a Qantas service, the flight was crewed by Qantas pilots and flight attendants. Passengers received the normal Qantas international grade inflight service. Chimu had astrophotographers onboard to help passengers refine their photography techniques.

The Dreamliners were divided into six zones. Fares started from approximately US$1007 for an economy class seat with a limited view. From there, fares headed north to around US$5,439 for an unobstructed view and a lie-flat seat in a Qantas Business Suite.

During the flight, there was a formal seat swap process within each cabin class. Everyone got a turn in the middle seat blocks and everyone got a turn by the window. Sounds democratic, still, you’d want a good run at the window if you were paying top dollar.

And because nothing is the same anymore, passengers were required to wear face masks throughout the flight. Temperature checks were done before boarding. Disinfecting the seats (not the passengers) was incorporated in the seat swap process and Qantas put into action their now standard upgraded cleaning protocols.

If you are keen, Chimu is running further flights during the 2021 Aurora Australis season. There are forthcoming departures from Brisbane and Perth.

Source : Simple Flying More   

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