This photograph taken on August 7, 2018, shows an American Airlines Airbus A330-243 aircraft on the tarmac at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport, north of Paris.
Joel Saget | AFP | Getty Images
Airline executives say demand for flights to Europe from the U.S. has remained resilient into the autumn, well past the normal peak for trips to the region, as eager travelers make up for lost time and airlines look to spice up revenue after greater than two years of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life when it comes to demand in the autumn,” United Airlines’ senior vice chairman of world Network Planning and Alliances, Patrick Quayle, told CNBC.
It is a welcome shift for airlines as they seek to drum up revenue after travel restrictions and concerns about Covid-19 sapped demand for a lot of European trips in 2020 and 2021. Lucrative business travel segments have been slower to return than leisure, making these trips all of the more crucial.
“I feel there is no query that folks’s appetite for going to Europe has gotten longer,” said Kyle Potter, executive editor of Thrifty Traveler, a travel and flight deal website. “A whole lot of the really ugly flight prices led people to postpone those sorts of trips that they were pushing aside for a few years.”
“They saw some really gross $900, $1,200 airfare in July and August and possibly they saw a deal to get there for half the pricing,” this fall, Potter said.
Plus, a robust U.S. dollar is making fall trips to Europe more attractive, driving down costs of all the pieces from shopping in Milan to high-end dining in Paris or London for a lot of U.S. travelers.
The extension of the everyday European travel season follows a rocky summer for air travel, particularly in that region, where challenges ranged from staffing shortages and lost luggage to heat waves and sky-high fares.
But while temperatures drop, airlines aren’t pulling back on U.S.-Europe capability the way in which they did in 2019, before the pandemic. United, for instance, is working its Newark to Reykjavik and Newark to Athens routes through October, later than in 2019.
From August to September carriers cut the variety of seats they were flying to Europe from america by 5.4%, followed by one other 3.6% cut from September to October, in response to aviation analytics company Cirium. In 2019, those self same periods saw schedule cuts of seven% and seven.6%, respectively.
Overall, capability remains to be lower than 2019, meaning travelers have fewer seats to select from compared with three years ago, an element that has kept fares firm.
Fare-tracker Hopper estimates international roundtrip tickets are averaging $891 this month, up 12% from 2019, but down from a peak in June of $1,064.
“Where we sit on this leg of the recovery is that international now could be surpassing domestic when it comes to unit revenue strength,” said Delta Air Lines’ president, Glen Hauenstein, at a Morgan Stanley conference earlier this month. “We have run a more fulsome schedule into October and into November.”
“The planes are full,” United’s Quayle said. “The quantity persons are paying is remaining incredibly strong and it’s actually significantly stronger than 2019.”
— CNBC’s Gabriel Cortes contributed to this text.