A Decade of Transatlantic Travel: Less Choice, More Flights
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A Decade of Transatlantic Travel: Less Choice, More Flights

DALLAS — This summer season will see a record number of flights between Western Europe and the United States: 111,400 according to the latest market analysis from OAG. That’s equivalent to 530 a day.

There were 80,416 flights scheduled between Western Europe and the United States in the summer of 2013, representing an increase of nearly 40% over the previous ten years.

One of the first long-haul markets to recover after the pandemic was Western Europe to the United States of America. Although some experts predicted that the recovery wouldn’t happen until 2024, the majority of airlines resumed operating flights as soon as they could, particularly in 2022.

This, combined with higher demand and tighter capacity, looks to make summer 2023 their most profitable one yet.

Less Choice, More Competition


In the summer of 2000, travelers could choose from 45 airlines operating scheduled flights across the Atlantic. This summer, there are only 37 airlines operating transatlantic as a result of mergers in the US, airline collapses in Europe, consolidation in Central Europe, and the influence of airline alliances.

In terms of frequency, the “Big Three” US carriers now dominate the market, with third-placed American Airlines (AA) operating 60% more flights than the largest European-based airline, British Airways (BA).

United Airlines (UA) and Delta Air Lines (DL), the latter which just launched the largest-ever transatlantic network, reported rapid percentage growth as a result of mergers with Continental and Northwest, both of which had large Europe-bound operations, whereas US Airways, acquired by AA, had one of the smaller networks across the pond.

Most notable is Turkish Airlines’ (TK) ever-expanding network to the United States, which now offers over 4,000 flights per summer, twenty flights per day compared to just twice daily in the summer of 2000—a remarkable expansion in a very competitive market.

Lower Operating Costs


At the turn of the century, wide-body aircraft accounted for 99% of all scheduled flights, with the Boeing 747 and 767 market leaders. It was a time when four- or three-engine aircraft dominated the transatlantic skies.

This summer, more than 90% of services will be operated by twin-engine aircraft, with the Boeing 777 accounting for more than 22% of flights and the A330 a close second with a 20% market share. When combined with other innovations and technology, this has reduced operating costs, allowing for new routes.

According to data from OAG, one in every four flights will be operated by new wide-body aircraft such as the A350 and the Boeing 787. A further 8,200 services will be operated by single-aisle aircraft such as Boeing 737s and A321s, and while these aircraft account for only about 7% of all flights, there is a growing trend towards their use in such sectors.

Fewer Airport Pairs


Airlines dropping and adding new airport pairs is not uncommon. Post a major disruption, such as the pandemic, airlines will consolidate back to their core networks which explains a 14% increase in flights between London Heathrow (LHR) and New York JFK.

Similarly, new aircraft deliveries have allowed for some experimentation, with several new routes being trialed this year, including Atlanta-Edinburgh and London Gatwick-Washington, some of which may only be seasonal based on historical demand profiles.

Using the UK as an example, there are thirteen fewer airport pairs being operated this summer than in 2019 – although the absolute number of scheduled flights has increased by nearly 5%, with approximately 1,500 more flights being operated.

United Airlines appears to be leading the pack across the pond, launching a slew of new routes this summer, including flights from Washington to Berlin, Barcelona, Shannon to Chicago, and Malaga to Newark. Meanwhile, AA has added a Seattle-Heathrow service as well as a low-frequency Paris-Charlotte service to improve connectivity to Florida.

Bottom Line


While some carriers are rapidly expanding into smaller, thinner markets, others, such as Lufthansa (LH) and BA, are taking a more conservative approach to frequency operations.

Regardless, time flies in 10 years, and for passengers, crossing the Atlantic is no longer a “long-haul” journey, but rather an opportunity to binge your favorite series on next-gen aircraft.

Looking at the OAG data, there is every reason to expect this summer to be a record revenue-producing period for airlines across the Atlantic, with more flights, strong demand, and capacity once again under pressure in many markets.


Featured image: EI anticipates the summer of 2023 as one of the busiest travel seasons to date. Photo: Aer Lingus. Data source: OAG Schedules Analyser

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Digital Editor at Airways, AVSEC interpreter, and visual artist. I am a grammar and sci-fi literature geek who loves editing text and film.

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