Issue No. 804

One if by Land, Two if by Sea, and Six if by Air

Does Boston-London Need Six Airlines on the Route?

Pushing Back: Inside This Issue

Paul Revere's midnight ride warned the residents of Boston that the British were coming. Now, it looks like the Americans are returning the favor, with United becoming the sixth airline to enter, or planning to enter, the market. Why this sudden interest in the route? We examine why in this week's Feature Story.

Elsewhere in this issue, Air Lease Corp. says Boeing has some "tough" decisions to make. Will the airframer design a new aircraft? IAG may be on its way to creating a European mega-hub in Madrid to compete with Frankfurt and Amsterdam. And winter most definitely has arrived in Scandinavia, with Norwegian considering its very survival and SAS scaling back its ambitions.

The Airline Weekly Lounge Podcast

New episodes drop every Thursday and are available wherever you get your podcasts and on AirlineWeekly.com. In the latest podcast, Edward "Ned" Russell and Madhu Unnikrishnan discuss the vacuum left by Norwegian's exit from longhaul flights.  Listen to the episode.

Verbulence

“Over the past two decades, the rollout of Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams and other virtual connectivity features has not hindered the growth of air travel nor have they seemed to replace the in-person interaction enabled by air travel. That said, it is not unreasonable to expect that the return of business travel will likely be in phases based on purpose of the travel and the destination country or region.”

Air Lease Corp. Executive Chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy

Weekly Skies

International Airlines Group (IAG) sees European authorities signing off on its renegotiated deal to acquire Air Europa later this year, as the conglomerate positions the acquisition as necessary to create a competitive alternative to other large European hubs.

The combination of Air Europa and IAG-subsidiary Iberia would turn Madrid into a “360-degree hub,” as IAG CEO Luis Gallego described it, comparable to what KLM offers in Amsterdam and Lufthansa in Frankfurt. This is possible with the combination of the Air Europa and Iberia long-haul fleets, he added during the group’s fourth-quarter earnings call last week. And, although unmentioned on the call, the deal would give the group a large hub in the European Union following the completion of Brexit that puts British Airways’ London Heathrow base further outside of the Schengen area.

Based on 2019 schedules, Air Europa would boost Madrid departures for Iberia by nearly 50 percent to over 104,000 annually, according to Cirium data. The number increases to more than 123,000 departures when Iberia Express is included. KLM had nearly 127,000 departures from Amsterdam and Lufthansa over 154,000 from Frankfurt.

Consolidation is expected to boost IAG’s financial position after a record $8.4 billion net loss in 2020. Revenues fell 69.4 percent to $9.5 billion on a 33.5 percent decline in expenses to $18.5 billion. Of the group’s four main operating brands, Iberia performed the best, owing to its strength in the domestic Spanish market and non-passenger business lines. Vueling performed the worst, due to its many point-to-point routes in markets with severe restrictions and few other business lines, like cargo. Group passenger traffic fell 74.7 percent and capacity 66.5 percent.

In the fourth quarter, IAG revenues were down 79.1 percent to $1.6 billion and expenses were down 54.7 percent to $3.4 billion. The group’s net loss totaled $1.6 billion.

Looking forward into 2021, Gallego said the outlook remains “highly uncertain.” Capacity will be roughly 20 percent of 2019 levels in the first quarter and IAG has “very low expectations” for the normally busy Easter travel period. He did not provide capacity guidance for the rest of the year but cited expanding Covid-19 vaccination programs and the UK’s reopening plans as bright spots. For example, on the day UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a four-stage reopening plan flight bookings surged 60 percent and holiday bookings 200 percent compared to the prior week.

However, Gallego warned that any travel recovery could be stifled if vaccination programs are not coupled with an easing of border and quarantine restrictions.

IAG is embracing are digital health passports to speed the restart of travel. The multiple apps in development aim to facilitate travelers ability to meet country-specific Covid travel requirements and create an easy-to-use verification process for airlines and local arrivals officials. The group is working with IATA’s Travel Pass, as well as trialling the VeriFly app.

“The future is vaccination, health pass and, in the meantime, we need testing regime to do the bridge,” said Gallego.

Edward Russell

Domestic Travel Restrictions Stymie Qantas

Australia’s geographically vast home market should have buoyed Qantas, which essentially grounded its international network, but the country’s domestic travel restrictions quashed any hope of a quick recovery. Still, the Flying Kangaroo has benefited from Virgin Australia’s travails, which have helped give it 70 percent of the Australian market.

But still, the first half the carrier’s financial year was grim, ending its financial first half with a A$1 billion loss ($800 million). Revenues were down A$7 billion from the prior year. Qantas is reducing its headcount by 8,500 employees, 60 percent of whom have already left the company. Business travel remains depressed, except for from the government and the resources industry, CEO Alan Joyce told investors last week.

Australia’s borders have been closed for the better part of a year, and during this time, Qantas has operated repatriation flights, except for a few trans-Tasman flights to New Zealand. Qantas is preparing for international borders to reopen, now expected in October. But the Airbus A380 fleet is likely not to be a part of the carrier’s international operations when flights resume. Domestic passenger capacity is expected to rise to 60 percent of pre-Covid levels in the next quarter.

In the meantime, cargo is keeping the carrier’s planes in the sky. Qantas Freight reported a record A$613 million in revenue, up from A$496 million in 2019. In addition to its Boeing 747Fs, the carrier has converted part of its Airbus A330 fleet to carry cargo, and is expecting to take delivery of A321 freighter conversions this year.

Madhu Unnikrishnan

Cargo, Including Penguins, Throws Air New Zealand a Lifeline

New Zealand has been one of the world’s success stories during this pandemic, praised for its stringent and effective public health measures and admired, enviously, for life returning almost to normal. And Air New Zealand has benefited, operating 76 percent of its pre-Covid domestic network.

But that’s about as good as the story gets for the carrier. The country’s borders are closed. Air New Zealand’s only international flights have been to repatriate Kiwis who want to return home — 60,000 since the pandemic began and continuing at a pace of roughly 1,000 per week.

Even domestic flights have been troubled. Before the pandemic, one-third of the company’s revenues came from its domestic network, and of that, 20 percent came from international tourists traveling around New Zealand. “No one could have accurately predicted how long and how severe Covid-19’s grip on the world would be,” CEO Greg Foran told investors last week.

As with most airlines around the world, freight was a saving grace for Air New Zealand. The carrier said freight revenues grew by 91 percent in the first half of its financial year. Cargo kept the international network running, and allowed for more repatriation of New Zealanders. The carrier transported agricultural products — “and even live penguins,” Foran said — out of New Zealand and brought e-commerce goods and medical equipment into the country. (It was not immediately clear, however, where the penguins were traveling to, or how many chose to fly Air New Zealand over another carrier.)

Air New Zealand reported losses of NZ$185 million ($136 million) for its first half, down from a profit of NZ$198 million ($145 million) in the same period a year prior. Management predicts the carrier’s monthly cash burn for the next five months will be between NZ$45-$55 million ($33-$40 million). It expects losses to be “significant” and continue through this year.

Madhu Unnikrishnan

Winter Arrives in Scandinavia

Norwegian needs to raise NOK4 billion ($462 million) after it exits administration in order to have enough capital to operate for the balance of the year. Without that money, and if it can’t successfully exit administration, management thinks the company may have to either declare bankruptcy or liquidate.

This is a far, far different result than anyone expected a few years ago, when Norwegian’s operations straddled the world. The company is ending its long-haul operations and will go from 131 aircraft to 53, all narrowbodies, this year. As for now, it is operating just 15 aircraft. Management referred to this period as Norwegian’s “hibernation mode.”

Capacity in the fourth quarter was down 96 percent, and revenue traffic was down 97 percent. The company reported a -2,482 percent margin, and losses of almost $2 billion, Revenue fell 93 percent year-over year, but costs also fell 70 percent, as much of the carrier’s fleet was grounded and “most” of it staff was either furloughed or laid off.

Elsewhere in Scandinavia, Norwegian was much on the mind of SAS management. SAS didn’t mention Norwegian by name, but said the struggling carrier’s focus on shorthaul and Nordic markets will change the competitive landscape for SAS after the pandemic, provided Norwegian survives, that is. Management also was skeptical that Norway’s aviation market can support it, Norwegian, and the potential entry of Flyr.

SAS sees its passenger mix in the post-pandemic world as evolving. As with most carriers around the world, leisure has fueled what traffic SAS carried during the pandemic. CEO Rickard Gustafson expects this will continue even after travel resumes, that business travel will be flat and the company’s passenger will continue to skew toward leisure travelers.

Another story that is becoming increasingly common is that cargo kept much of SAS’ longhaul network operating during the pandemic. The carrier also has operated several cargo-charters to such destinations as São Paulo.

The present was grim for SAS. The company reported revenues were down in its most recent quarter by 76 percent year-over-year. Losses for the quarter were SEK2 billion ($243 million). Gustafson expects the carrier to return to about half its former capacity this year, provided the vaccinations pick up and the pandemic recedes.

Madhu Unnikrishnan

U.S. Green Lights Breeze

The U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) has tentatively approved Breeze Aviation to start operations later this year, and has opened a 14-day period for public comment.

In its show-cause order, DOT said Breeze met all its conditions for the operation of up to 22 aircraft this year. Breeze is expected to launch with three Embraer E190/E195s and has plans to add more Embraers throughout this year. By August, it expects to receive the first of 60 Airbus A220s it has ordered. The second delivery is expected in September, the third in November, and roughly one a month will follow from January 2022.

DOT noted that a lawsuit brought by Canada Jetlines has been “amicably settled.” The Canadian carrier had sued to stop Breeze from poaching Lukas Johnson, the former Allegiant executive who will serve as Breeze’s chief commercial officer. Rounding out the executive suite is another Allegiant alum, Trent Potter, who will be chief financial officer, and ATR and JetBlue (and Virgin America) veteran Thomas Edward Anderson as chief operating officer. And lest you’ve forgotten, Azul and JetBlue founder David Neeleman founded Breeze and will serve as CEO.

DOT said Breeze informed it that it expects to spend $57.5 million in pre-operating expenses, of which it has spent $30.6 million. The company will need access to $64.3 million in working capital, and has about $80.3 million in working capital, DOT found in ruling on the company’s financial fitness.

Madhu Unnikrishnan

In Other News

  • More regulatory approvals! Brazil’s regulators have given the nod to the proposed Delta Air Lines-Latam joint venture, making official the tentative approval granted in September, the carriers announced last week. With the deal, the airlines can codeshare, offer reciprocal earn-and-burn frequent flier benefits, and share terminals, lounges.
  • United CEO Scott Kirby and Delta CEO Ed Bastian were among the airline chief executives who participated in a White House meeting on aviation’s role in climate change last week. A United spokesman said the carriers “asked [the Biden administration] to support incentives for sustainable aviation fuel and carbon capture in the forthcoming economic stimulus proposal.”

Madhu Unnikrishnan

Expand Section

Routes and Networks

It’s more “snow and sun” for Southwest Airlines this year. The Dallas-based discounter will add Bozeman, Mont., and Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Fla., to its map this May, its 13th and 14th new dots since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Once known for its slow and steady growth, where two new cities in a year was a big deal, Southwest has added a range new destinations to its map: From major airports like Chicago O’Hare and Miami, to smaller leisure-oriented dots like Palm Springs and Steamboat Springs, Colo. Executives describe the expansion as a way to bring in new revenues at a time when travelers want network breadth — particularly leisure breadth — and not Southwest’s bread-and-butter of high-frequency flying between cities.

Southwest will connect Bozeman with Denver and Las Vegas from May 27. Destin will gain new nonstops to Nashville, Baltimore/Washington and Dallas Love Field from May 6, and to Chicago Midway from June 6.

It’s impossible to say what destinations are next for Southwest. However, chief commercial officer Andrew Watterson has repeatedly cited the fact that before Covid-19 hit, the airline had a list of some 50 U.S. airports it could add to its map. That leaves some 36 more possible dots.

Routes Briefs

  • Brussels Airlines will add service to Frankfurt this summer. The carrier will take over two Brussels-Frankfurt flights currently flown by fellow Lufthansa Group carrier Lufthansa on August 2. The airline will also resume transatlantic flying from its namesake city in June, with New York and Washington Dulles flights taking off on June 14, and Montreal flights a day later.
  • KLM is looking east for the summer. The Dutch carrier will begin new thrice-weekly service between Amsterdam and Belgrade on May 13.
  • Spirit Airlines is well on its way to recovering to 2019 capacity levels by mid-year with plans for new service to Louisville and Milwaukee. The discounter will connect Louisville with Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Orlando from May 27; and Milwaukee with Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Orlando from June 24. All of the routes will operate daily.
  • What’s old is new again at United Airlines. The carrier has partnered with Landline to provide bus connections at its Denver hub. Daily “flights” to Breckenridge begin March 11, and four-times daily service to Fort Collins on April 1. Both routes were part of the former United Groundlink network that, according to a 1999 timetable, included bus connections in Chicago, Denver, Portland, Ore., and San Francisco.
  • Colombia’s Viva Air has upgraded Medellin to its main connecting hub with three new international routes. The budget carrier will connect Medellin and Cancun on June 2, Mexico City on June 8, and Orlando on June 10. Viva will also launch new Bogotá-Mexico City flights on June 2.
  • Nature abhors a vacuum, especially when it comes to connecting sun-starved Scandinavians with Mediterranean beaches. Vueling will add eight new routes this summer: Barcelona to Bergen, Billund and Stavanger; Billund to Malaga and Palma de Mallorca; and Copenhagen to Alicante, Malaga and Palma de Mallorca. Flights begin between June 18 and June 20, and come as Norwegian Air retrenches to a regional operator after shelving its global ambitions.

Edward Russell

Expand Section

Fleet

The likelihood of very large passenger aircraft returning to prominence in airline fleets is low, as airlines retire their remaining Airbus A380s and Boeing 747s, Air Lease Corp. said in its fourth quarter and full-year 2020 earnings call. Freighter conversions of these large widebodies also are diminishing, despite the overall strength of the cargo sector.

Cargo has kept planes in the air during the pandemic, but the airlines that have most benefited are ones with more modern widebodies, like the Boeing 787 and 777-300ER or the Airbus A350, ALC Executive Chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy said. Those aircraft were more easily and more quickly adaptable to flying economically viable all-cargo routes when international passenger traffic essentially ground to a halt.  

With so many large widebodies leaving airline fleets, the number of seats per departure on most routes will be much smaller even after the recovery begins, Udvar-Hazy said. As many as 35 percent of total widebody seats already have come out of the market, and airlines are in the process of retiring four-engine aircraft, including in the very large segment and Airbus A340s. Aircraft from the Airbus A330 to the Boeing 767 and larger are being converted to freighters. These two trends taken together are ways the market has matched supply with demand. “I really hope that by the middle of ’22, we’ll reach the point where things will be back to some level of normalcy in the widebody market,” Udvar-Hazy said.

On the other end of the aircraft spectrum, ALC is seeing strong demand for the Airbus A220 as airlines retire A319s and Boeing 737-700s. The A220 is also replacing the Embraer E190 and E195 for some airlines, and filling the gap left by MD-90 retirements at others. Momentum for the A220 is “definitely picking up,” Udvar-Hazy said, as airlines opt to use an aircraft its size rather than a 180-seat aircraft on many routes.

Boeing, however, is a complicating factor in ALC’s portfolio. Boeing has some “very, very tough decision to make,” Udvar-Hazy said. The company needs to determine whether it will replace the 737 with a clean-sheet design, and it needs to bridge the gap between the 737 and the 787. But whether airlines will have the capital, after the pandemic, to buy large numbers of either new design, or even if Boeing has the financial wherewithal for the necessary research and development remain open questions. Boeing, in a recent earnings call, said it is still evaluating whether it will pursue the New Midmarket Airplane concept, which would fill the gap between its largest narrowbodies and smallest widebodies.

Production problems with the 787 are having a material impact on ALC’s business, CEO John Plueger said. The airframer has not delivered a 787 since October, and problems with quality control and regulatory inspections have “mushroomed,” he added. “We want Boeing… to get its house in order.”

Meanwhile, the way airlines finance aircraft orders is changing in lessors’ favor. Last year, more than half of Airbus’ deliveries were leased. Both Plueger and Udvar-Hazy said they believe this could be a new normal, that half of the world’s fleet could be leased from now on.

As for when the recovery occurs, much depends on the pace of vaccinations and whether people feel comfortable traveling this summer. Earlier recoveries faded when new virus variants emerged and fresh outbreaks of the disease surged.

ALC reported full-year 2020 revenues that were essentially unchanged from 2019. The company’s pre-tax margin was 32 percent, down from 37 percent in 2019. The company reached deferral or other accommodations on 61 percent of its leases last year, due to the pandemic, but does not expect a material impact to its earnings. Air Lease Corp. expects to take delivery of 72 aircraft this year.

Madhu Unnikrishnan

In Other Fleet News

  • Mesa Air Group is serious about cargo. The regional carrier last year announced it was straying from its usual strategy of operating regional aircraft for mainline carriers by leasing two Boeing 737 freighters.

    And now it’s adding a third. The company said it is leasing another Boeing 737-400F, with delivery expected in May. Mesa currently operates its two freighters for DHL, and the third will join that operation. But in the regional’s recent earnings call, management said it is open to operating cargo flights for other providers. The boom in e-commerce, fueled in part by pandemic shopping by a population stuck largely at home, is buoying Mesa’s cargo operation.

    Mesa plans to expand its freighter fleet to 10 737 freighters, with the possibility of going up to 12, the company said on its earnings call. An added benefit is the addition of the type is that Mesa pilots can earn hours on a mainline aircraft. “This aircraft will provide Mesa pilots with additional career advancement opportunities and provide flexibility to better meet the demands of the current cargo environment,” Chief Operating Officer Brad Rich said in a statement.
  • KLM has taken delivery of an Embraer E195-E2, the first of 24 firm orders the carrier has for its KLM Cityhopper unit. In total, KLM has 35 commitments for the type, 25 firm and 10 options. The carrier recently raised the number of firm orders from 21 to 25, Embraer said. KLM Cityhopper has 50 E-Jets in its fleet.
  • The FAA has levied a $5.4 million fine on Boeing for the airframer failing to comply with some of the improvement targets set out in a 2015 agreement in which it pledged to improve some regulatory compliance and internal processes. The airframer previously had paid $12 million in fines relating the 2015 agreement. “I have reiterated to Boeing’s leadership time and again that the company must prioritize safety and regulatory compliance, and that the FAA will always put safety first in all its decisions,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement.

Madhu Unnikrishnan

Expand Section

Landing Strip

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) plans to begin opening the delayed Midfield Satellite Concourse at Los Angeles International Airport this April.

The 12-15 gate facility — the number depends on whether the serve narrowbody or widebody jets — is connected to the Tom Bradley International Terminal by an underground tunnel. Plans call for a phased opening with 18 airlines relocating to the concourse from the end of April through the beginning of June. The concourse was scheduled to open in 2020 but was delayed due to Covid-19 pandemic-related construction slowdowns.

While LAWA is mum on which airlines will operate from the concourse, Deputy Director of Operations and Maintenance Mike Christensen told the board earlier in February that domestic airlines currently operating from Terminal 5 will be the first to move in. The carriers will use check-in space in the new Terminal 1.5 — a new building between Terminals 1 and 2 — with a bus connection to the midfield facility.

Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Spirit Airlines and Sun Country Airlines all fit Christensen’s description. However, American is building a new $1.6 billion unified Terminal 4 and 5 for its operations that is a strong indication it does not plan to move, and a JetBlue spokesperson said the carrier is also staying put. That leaves Allegiant, Frontier, Hawaiian, Spirit and Sun Country as likely to move.

Prior to the pandemic, gate space at LAX was at a premium. Airlines scrambled for — and sat on — any facilities they could secure. The new Midfield concourse is considered something of a relief for the airport’s gate issues, especially during reconstruction of Terminal 3 and planning for a new Concourse 0 and Terminal 9.

LAX joins Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport opening new concourses this spring. The Washington, D.C., airport plans to open a new 14-gate concourse for American around April 20.

Edward Russell

Expand Section

Feature Story

The transatlantic market has long been among one of the busiest and most lucrative for airlines. Repeatedly after past crises, it was among the first to come back — and come back strong — compared with other international markets.

Now, as the world appears closer to turning the corner on the coronavirus pandemic, with more talk of reopening than new restrictions, airlines are again eyeing the North Atlantic for the recovery. This traditionally means London, and more specifically New York-London if history is the guide. But the Covid crisis has turned things on their head and airlines are eyeing a traditionally secondary gateway a few hundred miles up the coast: Boston.

The Boston-London market has long been the stronghold of three carriers — or two joint ventures — British Airways, and Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic. Budget carrier Norwegian Air added some low-cost competition to the market from 2016-2020 but exited for good when it opted to permanently end long-haul flying in January. American Airlines will begin flights in May after a year-plus Covid-induced delay, and JetBlue Airways aims to finally realize its transatlantic dreams with flights late this summer. Not to be left out, United Airlines surprised many with the announcement that it too will launch Boston-London flights this summer, rounding out what once was a tertiary transatlantic market into a red hot six-way game.

The fact that airlines are betting on the recovery of London demand this early in the recovery is not surprising. There is a seemingly never-ending well of interest from Americans who want to see Big Ben and the Crown Jewels, and Britons who want to take in the hubbub of New York. This is not to mention the deep business ties between the two countries. But Boston? It’s hard to imagine Brits have a newfound interest in the colonial Faneuil Hall.

For JetBlue, it is about connecting the top markets for travelers from its large Boston base, of which London is a notable gap. United makes a similar argument, citing Boston as the only top 10 U.S. destination from London and not a major hub for a competitor — like Atlanta or Miami — that it does not serve nonstop.

“This is a local play,” said United Vice President of International Network and Alliances Patrick Quayle. “This is a play for the London traveler where we have a strong affinity, and it’s a play for the Boston traveler.”

That’s an interesting stance for United. It is not, nor has it ever been, a top carrier in Boston. And although it was among the largest U.S. airlines in London for the 17 years after it bought Pan Am‘s London Heathrow rights until the open skies agreement went into effect in 2008, it has fallen to third after American’s partnership with BA, and Delta’s with Virgin Atlantic. What that leaves is a competitive response to JetBlue, which has used the Covid-19 crisis to expand wholeheartedly in United’s Newark stronghold with plans for up to 67 daily departures this summer — nearly three-fold what it flew from the airport before the pandemic.

“This is a broader, longer strategy,” said Quayle when asked if United’s new route was a tit-for-tat with JetBlue. By his measure, the expansion allows the Star Alliance carrier to better serve customers, especially without a London-based partner.

United has also emerged as the recipient of a BA remedy slot at sought-after Heathrow. Last May, the UK Competition and Markets Authority ordered BA to surrender slot pairs for new competition on the Boston, Dallas, Miami and Philadelphia routes following an investigation into the IAG-owned carrier’s expanded joint venture with Aer Lingus, American, Iberia and Finnair. The move must come as a blow to JetBlue executives in Long Island City who had expressed interest in a slot pair for Boston.

But all of the new transatlantic capacity may be a fool’s errand. Border restrictions remain in place on both sides of the Atlantic. And lucrative business travelers, who would normally make up many of the flyers between Boston and London, have yet to come back in significant numbers, with few expecting a notable uptick before the fall.

“Airlines are plowing way too much capacity into the Atlantic right now,” said Shakeel Adam, a managing director of aviation consultants Aviado Partners. Few countries outside of Israel and the UK are nearing vaccination levels that would allow borders to reopen, a fact that raises doubt in a surge of transatlantic travel this summer — even to perennial favorite London — in question, he added.

Even Quayle acknowledged this fact, saying demand to London will “remain very depressed until quarantine can be bypassed.” He did not offer a timeline for when United thinks the UK may ease its quarantine rules. And he added that United will only set a date its new Boston-London service once it sees “more data” — in other words, when demand picks up.

And expanding into the Boston-London market is not a bad bet based on the decade before Covid. Passenger numbers on the route grew at a robust compound annual rate of 3.2 percent to 1.2 million from 2010-2019, according to U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics data via Cirium. This is just shy of the 3.5 percent compound annual growth rate of the U.S.-London market during the decade.

Craig Jenks, founder of the Airline/Aircraft Projects consultancy and who has long analyzed the transatlantic market, expects growth rates to return to pre-crisis levels without saying when. People want to travel and business, despite an increased use of video conferencing, will still require some face-to-face meeting, he added.

What happens in Boston is, with the recovery still uncertain, anyone’s guess. The market was hot pre-pandemic with Delta and JetBlue duking it out with rival hubs, and a growing importance among international carriers. London is an important strategic goal for JetBlue, so much so the carrier bought Airbus A321LR jets just to serve the market, and Covid-19 has done little to dampen its ambitions. And United, with a highly sought-after Heathrow slot pair in the balance, has every reason to make a go of it among its other out-of-the-box moves. Ultimately, what will matter is when travelers come back and whether they will stick to their old airline loyalties or give some of these new competitors a go.

Edward Russell

Expand Section