United Airlines is confident enough in the outlook for 2023 to plan seven new transatlantic routes despite the economic storm clouds circling the U.S. and Europe.
The Chicago-based Star Alliance carrier will add three destinations to its map — Dubai, Malaga, Spain, and Stockholm — and four new routes to Barcelona, Berlin, Rome, and Shannon in its summer 2023 schedule, United unveiled Wednesday. The seven new routes, plus additional frequencies in other markets, would see the airline fly 10-11 percent more transatlantic capacity next year than it did this year, and 30 percent more than it did in 2019.
But the expansive schedule comes amid economic recession concerns on both sides of the Atlantic. Rating agency S&P Global recently forecast a “shallow recession” in the U.S. during the first half of 2023, and the “risk of a full-blown recession” in the eurozone next year. S&P expects a moderate economic contraction in the latter beginning in the fourth quarter.
None of this, yet, appears to concern United. Patrick Quayle, the airline’s vice president of global network planning and alliances, said the airline has seen “incredibly strong demand” for transatlantic flights this summer and through September. That gives it the confidence in its 2023 schedule plans that, he emphasized, it intends to fly.
In late March, United dropped plans to launch a new nonstop between Washington Dulles and Berlin this May. The airline cited resource constraints, and not the war in Ukraine, for the decision to drop the Berlin route. United has Berlin-Washington flights on its dance card again with plans for daily summer (2023) flights with a Boeing 767-400ER from May 25.
“My goal has been to skate to where the puck is going, and not to where it’s been,” Quayle said of his outlook for United’s 2023 schedule.
United’s rapid transatlantic growth is, in part, a response to where markets have reopened and travel demand recovered. The airline did not retire any widebody aircraft during the pandemic unlike competitors American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which has given United an advantage in resuming and adding new international flights. Delivery delays of new Airbus and Boeing jets have compounded the situation for many airlines, but particularly those that retired aircraft in anticipation of new deliveries. Lufthansa will reactivate several of its Airbus A380s next summer to meet demand after delays to Boeing’s new 777X.
Delta unveiled its summer 2023 transatlantic schedule in September with plans for 8 percent more seats than this year. The SkyTeam Alliance carrier will add Geneva to its map, and offer three new routes to London Gatwick and Heathrow, as well as Edinburgh.
United’s traditionally large Asia-Pacific franchise remains hamstrung by Covid restrictions in the region. China has given no indication when it could ease restrictions under its zero-Covid policy. And Japan only dropped its Covid entry restrictions on October 11. Quayle said United will fly roughly the same amount of capacity across the Pacific next summer as it did in 2019; however, much of that will be in additional flights to the South Pacific. The airline will add Brisbane to its map later this month, and additional frequencies to Sydney from December through February.
Across the Atlantic, United will connect Dubai from March, and Malaga and Stockholm from May to its Newark Liberty hub. The Dubai route was previously unveiled as part of its new partnership with Emirates. The four new routes connecting Barcelona and Shannon to Chicago O’Hare; Berlin to Washington; and Rome Fiumicino to San Francisco all launch in May.
United will also add a second daily flight on its routes between Los Angeles and London Heathrow — for 23 daily flights at the sought-after UK hub — and Washington and Paris.
For all of United’s European and Middle East expansion, one market it added this year will not return in 2023: Bergen, Norway.