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Back on the radar


Airport World reports on a number of new route announcements and the return of some key international services for airports in Europe, the US and Asia-Pacific.

It would be easy to think that route development was off the agenda in today’s COVID impacted world, but despite everything, airlines continue to inaugurate or announce the planned launch of new services at airports across the world.

Granted, the announcements and traditional water cannon welcomes for new flight arrivals maybe fewer than before the pandemic, but the good news is that they are beginning to happen again in what has to be one of the greatest possible shows of faith in aviation’s ability to bounce back from the current crisis.

And with an ever-increasing number of existing routes returning in the past couple of months – including the return of international Trans-Tasman services between Australia and New Zealand – there is now real hope that airports will begin to see a noticeable upturn in traffic levels during the second half of 2021.

Below is a snapshot of some of the most high-profile route development news to be announced in the second quarter of 2021.

JetBlue to launch transatlantic services to London

JetBlue has announced that it will make its highly anticipated entrance into the transatlantic market with the launch of a non-stop service between New York-JFK and London Heathrow this summer.

And the news gets even better for London’s gateways as the US carrier will follow the August 11 inauguration of flights to Heathrow with the start of services between JFK and Gatwick from September 29, with services from Boston earmarked to start in the summer of 2022.

“The pandemic has opened doors to London’s two busiest airports, and we look forward to bringing customers low fares and great service at both Heathrow and Gatwick,” said JetBlue CEO, Robin Hayes.

“JFK-LHR, the single largest international air travel market from the US, has suffered from outrageously high fares for far too long, especially in premium cabins. We’re ready to change that with a price point and experience that will impress even the most discerning transatlantic flyers.

“We’ve always said that JetBlue would serve multiple London airports, and we’re pleased to have secured a path at Heathrow and for long-term growth at Gatwick, which offers speed, low costs, and convenient accessibility into Central London.”

Flights on both routes will operate daily on JetBlue’s new Airbus A321 Long Range (LR) aircraft with 24 redesigned Mint suites, 117 core seats and the sleek and spacious Airspace cabin interior.

From Russia with love

Japan Airlines (JAL) has revived services between Moscow Sheremetyevo and Tokyo Haneda, a route it initially launched in 1967.

Speaking at the resumption of Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights to Moscow in April, Sheremetyevo’s first deputy director general for production, Andrei Nikulin, said: “We are proud that the leading Japanese national carrier, a recipient of five stars from Skytrax, has chosen Moscow Sheremetyevo for further development of air traffic between Japan and Russia.

“Sheremetyevo is a recognised leader in Europe in quality of services and the most powerful international hub in Russia in terms of terminal infrastructure and the capacity of the airfield complex. I am confident that Japanese Airlines passengers will be able to take advantage of the route network of Sheremetyevo Airport for onward flights across Russia and Europe.”

JAL’s vice president and regional manager for Russia and the CIS, Takeshi Kodama, noted: “We are happy to open a new page in the history of air traffic between Moscow and Tokyo by re-launching the route between Sheremetyevo and Haneda airports.

“We are deeply grateful to our passengers, aviation authorities and Sheremetyevo Airport for their unlimited support during the difficult period of coronavirus restrictions.”

Southwest returns to Houston-George Bush after 16 year absence

An old friend has returned to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) – Southwest Airlines, which is back at the Texas gateway after a 16-year absence.

Its return widens the carrier’s footprint in Houston and will provide greater convenience for business and leisure travellers throughout the region, notes Houston Airports.

“Airline expansions like this are important to global air service hubs like Houston,” said Houston Airports director, Mario Diaz.

“As we recover from the pandemic, the safety of our passengers will remain our top priority. Partners like Southwest will ensure that as we rebuild and recover, we are building forward better.”

Southwest Airlines has a long history with Bush Airport. The gateway was one of three airports served by Southwest when it launched operations back on June 18, 1971.

The carrier moved to Hobby Airport shortly thereafter, though it operated services from both airports between 1980 and 2005. Southwest remains a key employer in the City of Houston, providing nearly 4,000 jobs.

“With Southwest’s expanded Houston service, we’re looking forward to bringing more options for local travellers,” enthused the airline’s vice president of business, Dave Harvey.

“Whether travelling for leisure or business, Southwest customers can now fly from the Houston airport most convenient to them and experience the flexible polices and world-class hospitality that’s made Southwest a part of Houston’s community for 50 years.”

Bergamo boost as route network grows

Milan Bergamo Airport in Italy has welcomed easyJet’s announcement that it will follow the launch of a new service to Sardinia with the inauguration of flights to Amsterdam Schiphol, London Gatwick and Paris CDG later this year.

Indeed the Italian gateway says that it is “witnessing the hugely positive resumption of many routes” this summer, with Ryanair in particular ramping up operations on eight domestic routes.

“We are looking forward to the coming months and the revival of our route network here at Milan Bergamo,” enthuses Giacomo Cattaneo, airport operator SACBO’s director of commercial aviation.

“With the commitment of our airline partners, we already have a wide variety of connectivity to offer our passengers and we will continue to add to these over the coming months as Luke Air (by Blue Panorama), Albastar, and Neos also return to our runway.”

Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble

In April, airports in Australia and New Zealand celebrated the reopening of quarantine free Trans-Tasman travel for Australian and New Zealand nationals for the first time in 12 months.

And such has been the success of the move to date that at the time of going to press, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, was set to meet Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to discuss the possibility of allowing vaccinated international travellers from around the world to board these flights.

The launch of the Trans-Tasman travel bubble on April 19 was pretty much met with widespread delight in Australia and New Zealand.

Brisbane Airport (BNE) opened 16 ‘Green Lane’ services to accommodate Air New Zealand and Qantas flights between Brisbane and Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The airport reported that all eight arrivals and eight departures operated at around 80% capacity with more than 1,600 seats being sold.

Brisbane Airport Corporation CEO, Gert-Jan de Graaff, called the travel bubble between the two countries “vitally important for the thousands of businesses in Brisbane, the regions, and across Queensland who rely on tourism”.

In 2019, around 1.5 million passengers flew between BNE and New Zealand, with more than 100 flights each week and five airlines operating services to five New Zealand cities (Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin, and Queenstown).

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