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Airlines Return To Europe Skies For Summer, 400% More Flights: What To Expect
Tamara Thiessen - Contributor Travel
As travel bans unwind worldwide, airlines will return to the skies in time for Europe’s summer with up to 400% more international flights in June compared to May.
European airlines in particular are gearing up for a full return to travel freedom on the continent, and rise in demand, as Europe’s borders come back down.
Germany’s Lufthansa is the first major European carrier to announce a feisty debut of post-Corona flight plans in June with 3,600 flights (1,800 roundtrips) weekly. That compares to about 20,000 flights a week in December 2019, suggesting a 15-20% return to normal schedules as things warm up. “People want to and can travel again,” says CEO Harry Hohmeist.
The group’s trio, Lufthansa, SWISS and Eurowings between them will operate 70 overseas flights by mid-June. That’s up almost 400% on May. The unfurling of a multitude of destinations by Lufthansa seems a bit bull at a gate, given the ongoing travel restrictions in many European countries on all but non-essential travel.
What remains to be seen is whether the EU external border will open from June 15, paving the way for international leisure travel to Europe. But some carriers are not waiting to see before announcing early summer schedules. Let’s just call them optimistic.
Here’s the lowdown on which carriers are flying in–and to and from–Europe, as summer arrives:
Airlines are restarting many domestic and Europe routes first, then intercontinental.
Brussels Airlines says it will resume flights on June 15, starting with Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal and Greece. After “seven weeks of hibernation mode”, routes will be phased in, according to passenger demand and travel restrictions. Details are to come soon.
What To Expect: Disinfection of aircraft and mandatory masks.
The German national carrier is being gung-ho in its ambitious bid to fly to 130 destinations worldwide by the end of June. Online bookings have begun to over 100 German and EU destinations for flights in the first half of June. From Frankfurt, these include Mallorca, Sofia, Prague, Nice, Budapest, Dublin, Riga, Krakow and Bucharest. From Munich, Brussels, Zurich, Mallorca and Vienna.
20 long-haul routes will join those in the second half of June including flights to Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Toronto, Dubai, Mumbai, Mexico City, Tel Aviv and Johannesburg. That’s a nearly 400% jump on long-haul connections operating in May too. The return towards normal will see Lufthansa double its flying fleet from a current 80 planes to 160 in June.
What To Expect: Masks are mandatory aboard. Check the refunds policy here.
The German low-cost and Lufthansa subsidiary is getting numerous European leisure destinations off the ground for early summer. Fights have already begun in May to Prague among others after a two-month hiatus.
From May 18, you can buy a ticket from Cologne, Stuttgart and Munich to Palma de Mallorca. Even though the Spanish travel ban remains in place and few hotels on the islands are open. Same for Düsseldorf to Rome flights, as Italians only just get the green light to travel. The airline’s June schedule also includes Nice-Majorca trips. From May 18, it’s flying 5 times weekly to Lisbon, where there is still a curb on foreign tourism and hotels are yet to open.
What To Expect Be sure to check on travel bans at destinations before booking flights in Europe. Things will evolve especially from June 15, when the EU wants to restore travel freedom in Europe. Meantime most borders are still closed Europe-wide, with only regional and domestic travel off the ground first. Eurowings says you can rebook free of charge “as often as you like”, but only up to 14 days before departure, which hardly helps with the speed things are currently changing. Masks are mandatory onboard. Eurowings is already selling tickets across Europe starting May, to destinations including Majorca.
Ryanair is slower off the ground, but plans to have about 40% of flights running from July 1, and 90% of schedules by late summer. That’s about 1,000 flights a day. Ryanair is already operating flights from Stansted to Porto and Lisbon for example.
What To Expect: Masks will be compulsory. Passengers will oddly have to ask permission to use the toilet under new hygiene rules.
The Swiss national carrier will restart 180 flights from Zurich and Geneva to 45 European destinations in June. Plus several long-haul flights to the U.S., Asia and Africa. The return to the skies will unfurl progressively SWISS says, starting with re-establishing 15-20% of usual services in early summer.
The June timetable will in theory mean travelers can hop aboard Mediterranean routes to Spain (Málaga, Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia) and Italy (Brindisi, Florence, Naples and Rome). That’s two of Europe’s worst hit COVID-19 countries. Paris, Brussels and Moscow flights will also resume. While existing services to Amsterdam, Athens, Berlin, Lisbon, London, Porto, Gothenburg, Copenhagen and Stockholm will be beefed up.
3 weekly flights to Newark in the U.S. will continue, as further long-haul destinations come onboard. These include 4 flights weekly from Zurich to New York, 2 to Chicago, 1 to Singapore, Bangkok and Johannesburg, 2 to Tokyo and Hong Kong, and 3 to Mumbai.
What to Expect: From May 4 until the end of August at least, SWISS recommends passengers wear a mask both onboard and at the airport before or after flights, where social distancing may not be easy.
Wizz Air has been restarting flights from Luton to 15 destinations throughout May, as European lockdowns continue. Budapest, Bratislava, Belgrade and Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands are among the relaunches. Europe’s largest low-cost airline serving central and eastern Europe wants to return to about 30% of schedules this month, before ramping that up to 70% in peak summer months. That will depend on travel restrictions easing it says. That has not stopped the airline selling tickets for Lisbon and Porto in May, and other destinations where non-urgent travel is still not possible.
What To Expect: Compulsory masks. Be on high alert about checking to see whether flights on sale are actually likely to get off the ground due to current ongoing travel restrictions in Europe.
From May 21, Emirates resume flights to 9 international destinations via its Dubai hub. Among them, five in Europe: London, Milan, Madrid, Frankfurt and Paris.
What To Expect: “Travellers will only be accepted on these flights if they comply with the eligibility and entry criteria requirements of their destination countries,” Emirates points out. At Dubai International airport, passengers and employees will have their temperatures checked via thermal scanners, and gloves and masks are mandatory. Other health and safety measures include protective barriers at check-in counters. “Social distancing protocols” will also be implemented on the ground. There’ll be modified in-flight service to minimise interaction on-board, “and reduce contact and infection risk”.
Qatar plans to resume flights to over 2o European cities by the end of June, as global travel restrictions ease. Qatar never left the skies, continuing to operate routes to many places its competitors weren’t flying over past months. Nonetheless it did wind back services, while still using 75% of its fleet through repatriation and cargo flights. (This compares to just 10% for many other airlines).
On top of ongoing flights to Paris and London, the airline will fly, via its Doha hub, to Athens, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Madrid, Manchester, Munich Milan, Oslo, Rome, Vienna and Zurich. The move is hugely significant, indicating the way Europe is suddenly opening up again to travel. As Qatar boosts its destinations from 30 to 80 in June, (and regains 50% of its usual network), Europe accounts for about a quarter.
What To Expect: Qatar does not as yet allow for social distancing onboard. At the airport yes. The return of services it specifies depend on travel bans being lifted at all the destinations. A flexible bookings policy means passengers have unlimited date changes plus destination switches within 5,000 miles of the original for travel in 2020. It’s also offering refunds, or vouchers valid for 2 years.
The forecast uptick in international flights is slower, given the lockdowns, travel bans and current health situation at home.
Starting around May 18, the US carrier is resuming several trans-Atlantic services. There will be daily flights from Atlanta to Amsterdam and “less than daily” to Frankfurt and Paris Charles De Gaulle. From Detroit, daily flights to Amsterdam and 3 flights weekly to London-Heathrow. A quick check online shows almost daily flights to Paris–at over $2100 for an economy round trip. Apparently regaining flying freedom is not going to be cheap, at the outset.
What To Expect: The airline promises blocking of some aisle and window seats, “elevated” cleaning measures, and more flexibility on changes to plans with fee waivers.
Tamara Thiessen - forbes.com