DALLAS – On June 3, United Airlines (UA) operated its inaugural Newark, NJ (EWR) to Palma de Mallorca (PMI) route.
In an interesting twist, the traditional water cannon salute was not performed due to environmental reasons, but that seemed to be the only piece of protocol that was dispensed with. Passengers who disembarked were handed local souvenirs that contained local salt that was presented in a locally made textile bag.
This summer has seen the legacy carrier diversify and deploy capacity to secondary cities, some of which had no direct links to the U.S.
Palma amid the Pandemic
While visiting Mallorca during the peak of the pandemic in the summer of 2020, I would have been mocked if I suggested that there would be direct flights from the island to the U.S. within two years.
Back then, the hospitality industry, which is the mainstay of the economy, was decimated. Most hotels and hospitality venues were shut, and many locals were relying on government furlough payments to make ends meet.
Palma de Mallorca Airport was eerily quiet. Entire sections that normally would be brimming with summer tourists, were mothballed and flights were often flying with handfuls of passengers.
Palma de Mallorca and United
To the cynic, these secondary destinations are merely an interim strategy to redeploy surplus capacity until UA’s route network realigns to what existed before the pandemic. In contrast, however, a Mallorquin will not be shy to tell you this is a route that should have been established years ago.
The island has long been home to mass tourism. Nowadays though, there is a renewed focus on quality rather than quantity. Tapping into traffic flows from a major hub that is serviced by a reputable global carrier is precisely the market that is being targeted.
This new route is, for now, a seasonal offering from UA and runs three times per week until September. Local Mallorquins hope that strong demand can entice the carrier back to the island next year.
United’s International Sales Manager for Spain, Victor Alvarez, was quoted in the Mallorca Daily Bulletin as noting that the new route is “exceeding all our forecasts.” He highlighted that load factors for June are averaging 85%, with some flights reaching 100%. In addition to inward tourism, he also indicated there has been a healthy uptake of outward travel from the island too.
The tourist season thrives from April through to October and, whilst there is unlikely to be demand during the winter months, success will be measured by seeing the legacy carrier return again in 2023.
Featured image: United Airlines N668UA Boeing 767-300(ER). Photo: Lorenzo Giacobbo/Airways