United Airlines increases flights for travel back to Europe

A United Airlines passenger plane flies over residential rooftops to land at Heathrow Airport in west London, Britain, March 13, 2020.

Matthew Childs | Reuters

United Airlines said demand for transatlantic travel is growing, despite higher fuel prices and the Ukraine war.

The airline plans to fly 25% more across the Atlantic during this spring and summer peak travel season compared to 2019, including new arrivals it launched last fall such as Bergen, Norway; Amman, Jordan; and the Portuguese Azores. United is adding new routes and frequencies, including to London, Zurich, Munich, Milan and Nice, France.

Patrick Quayle, United’s senior vice president of international networks and alliances, said on a call with reporters on Monday.

United is ramping up its schedule as the airline faces a number of challenges: The process took longer than expected continue to fly 52 Pratt & Whitney-powerful Boeing 777s after one engine failure last year, delivery delays of new Boeing Dreamliners, Russia Invades Ukraine and increase costs.

“We haven’t seen a drop in demand yet,” Quayle said of the carrier’s easternmost European destinations, such as Germany or Croatia. However, he added, there could be some impact on connection demand to cities further east in countries like Poland and Romania served by United’s partner Lufthansa.

Quayle also said United is seeing “strong” demand for more expensive products like Polaris business class and premium economy class for transatlantic flights. He also said that transatlantic business travel is making a comeback.

Grounded 777s are on their way back in mid-May, and the airline plans to increase capacity beyond its current schedule if it returns sooner. However, Quayle said the planes could be used for cargo flights, which have been a bright spot during the pandemic.

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