Is it time to visit Europe?

Despite a wide range of issues, including some pandemic-induced, travel to Europe has been a popular activity this summer. Its popularity will apparently continue into the fall — most likely with low fares boosted by restored air capacity and the strength of the US dollar.

The “shoulder season,” September through October, has long been considered a good time to travel to Europe due to cooler temperatures and fewer crowds. This year it may also mean easier navigation at major European airports which have been stretched out over the summer. The higher capacity extends into late autumn, normally out of season, although questions surround European energy supply.

For Americans traveling to Europe, the strong dollar and relatively high airline capacity could mean lower fares, said Paul O’Driscoll, consultant at Ishka, a London-based global aviation information and consultancy firm. .

“From a capacity perspective, there could be attractive ticket prices available – especially for those paying in US dollars,” O’Driscoll said. He noted that OAG calendars show published transatlantic capacity for November and December is slightly higher than it was in 2019.

“United and Delta both planned more capacity on transatlantic routes than in 2019 (United 10% more; Delta 6%),” he said. “With many routes to Asia still to recover, transatlantic markets are the only other outlet for this capacity.” Meanwhile, the US December schedule, which includes European destinations as well as Doha and Tel Aviv, is in line with 2019, with 0.3% fewer available seat miles. Capacity would be higher, American said, if Boeing
BA
delivered 787 to American on time.

Additionally, O’Driscoll said: ‘Scandinavian airlines SAS and Finnair have been hardest hit by the ban on Russian airspace and have redeployed their jumbo jets on transatlantic routes. SAS has forecast 20% more seat miles than in 2019 and Finnair 60% more. »

Regarding the currency, he said, “the strength of the dollar against the euro and the pound sterling, as well as the huge increases in gas and electricity bills that Europeans are prepared for this winter mean the airline will likely seek American passengers to fill their planes.With the pound at its weakest against the US dollar since 1985, now may be a good time for a transatlantic trip.

Travel writer Joe Brancatelli warned that some of the benefits of traveling to Europe could be outweighed by countervailing forces.

“The euro and the pound are both historically weak against the dollar (which) would normally mean fantastic bargains,” he said. “But now it’s basically offsetting inflation, which is higher there than in the United States.”

Additionally, with much of Europe facing a drop in Russian deliveries, “street lights will be dimmer, stores will be colder, and maybe even hotels and Airbnb will have less heat,” Brancatell said. “So bring sweaters and warmer clothes.”

At the Cowen Investor Conference on Wednesday, Patrick Quayle, United’s senior vice president of global network planning and alliances, said: “Demand is very strong in Europe. You see it in our results.

“For the first time in our 96-year history, we are the largest airline across the Atlantic Ocean,” he noted. “We have a diversified portfolio in our partners’ hubs as well as in Africa and the Middle East.”

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Overall, “we are seeing a very good month of September. It doesn’t look like summer is over; it’s so strong,” Quayle said. “Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe – the demand for our product in these places is the same as in the summer. There is historically a drop between August and September (but) we don’t see that.

This summer, London Heathrow has been a key choke point for transatlantic travellers. Last month, the airport extended its passenger cap until October. This cap, put in place due to an insufficient supply of airport workers, set a daily limit of 100,000 departing passengers. Amsterdam Schiphol, following suit, also extended its passenger cap until October, when the limit will be 69,500 passengers.

Speaking at the Cowen conference, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom said the carrier’s transatlantic revenues had exceeded 2019 levels. did not provide financial assistance to the airline industry, “we were much better prepared than so many places in the world, including Europe. It’s so hard to pick up speed. You can’t flip a switch and bring people back. ”

Isom said US operations at Heathrow “have stabilized considerably” because the airline has isolated its operations in Terminal Three, reducing pressure on Terminal Five, where its partner British Airways operates. “Take a look at Heathrow,” Isom said. “It’s a very different environment than what was reported earlier in the summer.”

Brancatelli said conditions are expected to be better at airports “as traffic weakens and airlines and airports catch up.” But low cost lines are facing strikes and it could affect your ability to move. And staff remains a problem for customs operations. He also warned that “land transport could be uncertain due to strikes – rail and bus networks could be disrupted. And car rentals are very expensive and gas prices are insane.

Brancatelli advised European travelers to fly nonstop whenever possible and to consider “nesting in your arrival city” rather than visiting multiple destinations.

Mary I. Bruner