United Bets Big on Trans-Atlantic Travel Rebound

United Bets Big on Trans-Atlantic Travel Rebound

United Airlines is pushing a big pile of chips into the middle of the table on its bet that there will be a full recovery of international travel—by Americans—in 2023.

Unfortunately for the US hotel and hospitality industry, the surge in Americans traveling to Europe may be a one-way street in terms of tourism, as few observers are predicting a huge influx of international travelers heading for the US anytime soon.

The commercial passenger jet giant is projecting “historic levels of demand” next summer involving Americans visiting Europe, when United expects trans-Atlantic travel to exceed 2019 levels by more than 20%.

United trumpeted this positive outlook when it recently announced expanded trans-Atlantic routes and destinations for its summer 2023 schedule. This week, the airline underlined its commitment to international travel by announcing the purchase of at least 100 wide-body Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, fuel-efficient jets designed for long hauls.

United said it is adding service from the US to three cities—Malaga, Spain; Stockholm; and Dubai—and adding six more flights each day to popular destinations including Rome, Paris, London, Barcelona and Berlin.

Previously, United added nine new direct routes from US cities to European counterparts, including direct flights from New York/Newark to Nice; Denver to Munich; Boston to London; Chicago to Zurich and Milan; as well as flights to destinations not served by any other North American airline, including Amman, Azores, Palma de Mallorca and Tenerife.

“Next summer, United is offering the best of both worlds: we’re making it easier for our customers to visit the most popular cities in Europe, but we’re also expanding our reach to give travelers access to new places they haven’t yet experienced,” said Patrick Quayle, United VP of global network planning, in a statement.

Despite the easing of restrictions for international tourists in December 2021, international visitation is still down more than 66% from pre-pandemic levels, a recently released report from JLL said, citing statistics from the International Trade Administration.

The top three US markets for international arrivals are well behind their totals for 2019, according to ITA numbers, with NYC dropping from 13.5M visitors in 2019 to 5.1M in 2021; Miami, going from a pre-pandemic level of 8.3M to 3.4M in the same period; and Los Angeles dipping to 2.6M from a 2019 tally of 7.6M.

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