Qatar Airways extends US flight network

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While “a crisis like no other” (in the words of the International Monetary Fund) rages, it is important to identify and highlight the sectors of the aviation, tourism and travel retail business that are beginning more rapidly to recover.

In this column, we bring you regular updates about how airports, airlines, travel retailers and brands are investing in that recovery, and how various stakeholders are shaping up for the new normal.

7 August

Qatar/US

Qatar Airways is set to enhance its US network by resuming flights to Houston and Philadelphia in September. The airline will also expand its frequencies to daily to Los Angeles from 12 August and double daily to New York JFK from 1 September.

By mid-September, the airline will offer 56 weekly flights in its US network, with partnerships allowing onward travel with American Airline to over 200 destinations, and with JetBlue to over 55 destinations.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “Qatar Airways has remained committed to bringing people home safely since the onset of the pandemic, and our commitment to the US, a very important strategic market, has never wavered. We are proud of our repatriation efforts to date, and we look forward to providing travellers access to even more flights to the US with the resumption of flights to Houston and Philadelphia, two major cities.

“The addition of these flights brings us to eight US destinations and maintains our position as the largest international carrier in the US, and we look forward to soon returning to all ten of our incredible US gateways.”

Abu Dhabi

Etihad Airways aims to increase its network to 61 destinations worldwide in August and September, operating around 50% of its pre-COVID-19 capacity.

Subject to the easing of travel restrictions, Etihad’s Summer schedule will feature a wider network and increased frequencies to the following destinations from, to, or via Abu Dhabi:

*Middle East & Africa: Amman, Bahrain, Beirut, Cairo, Casablanca, Dammam, Jeddah, Kuwait, Muscat, Rabat, Riyadh, Seychelles.

*Europe: Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Belgrade, Brussels, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva, Istanbul, London Heathrow, Madrid, Manchester, Milan, Moscow, Munich, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Rome, Zürich.

*Asia: Ahmedabad, Baku, Bangkok, Bengaluru, Chennai, Colombo, Delhi, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Jakarta, Karachi, Kochi, Kolkata, Kozhikode, Kuala Lumpur, Lahore, Male, Manila, Mumbai, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Thiruvananthapuram, Tokyo.

*Australasia: Melbourne, Sydney

*North America: Chicago, New York JFK, Toronto, Washington D.C.

Russia

Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport Terminal D reopened on 1 August, with duty free (through Heinemann JV Imperial Duty Free), food & beverage and other services resuming trading.

The opening was made possible by the gradual ending of restrictions on domestic and international passenger traffic and the gradual increase in the number of flights arriving at and departing from the airport, said the airport company.

Terminal D was closed to passengers from 1 April. As reported, international flights have begun to London and Istanbul, with Antalya to follow on 10 August.

6 August

Qatar

Qatar Airways has announced the resumption of flights to Kenya and Rwanda as it extends its African route network. The Doha-based carrier – whose services during the COVID-19 crisis never dropped below 30 destinations – will make 14 weekly flights to Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and three to Kigali International Airport.

With these additions, the airline now operates 33 weekly flights to eight destinations in Africa including Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Djibouti, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and Tunis.

The Qatar Airways network now extends to 75 destinations and 500 weekly flights

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “We are delighted to resume flights to Nairobi and Kigali. Qatar Airways continues to maintain an expanding schedule with now more than 500 weekly flights to over 75 destinations.

“During the pandemic, Qatar Airways have become the largest global carrier to maintain its schedule in taking people home with the highest safety measures. Our wide network of flights during these challenging times has ensured we have kept up to date with the latest in international airport procedures. We also implemented the most advanced safety & hygiene measures on board our aircraft and in our home and hub at Hamad International Airport which was recently voted the Best Airport in the Middle East for the sixth year in a row.

“Qatar Airways has been the most reliable airline during the pandemic and will continue to ensure its promised five-star service and hospitality is delivered across its network. We hope to see many people come visit Kenya and Rwanda and explore the world’s stunning wildlife and more.”

UK

More shops and restaurants have opened at Birmingham Airport this week as flight operations increase. On Tuesday, WHSmith reopened stores in arrivals and departures (its Departures North shop had already opened), while on Wednesday, Dixons Travel reopened its main airside store.

These join other stores recently opened in the airside zone that include World Duty Free, SuperDry, JD Sports, Kurt Geiger, Boots and Next. Other units now trading also include M&S Food To Go, Burger King, Pret, Factory Bar & Kitchen, Aerospa and Aspire.

Russia

In encouraging news for destinations that rely on Russian visitor spend, Aeroflot has resumed international flights after Russia permitted air travel to and from selected overseas countries.

On 1 August the airline began flying from Moscow Sheremetyevo to and from London Heathrow, with regular Istanbul flights from the same day. Although services are limited, they will be increased in coming weeks.

Aeroflot will also begin flights to Antalya from Monday 10 August, going from three times daily to six times daily from 15 August. Russian are vital contributors to duty free spending at Antalya International Airport.

5 August

UK

The WHSmith Travel division continues to reopen stores across the UK and overseas. In the UK, WHSmith is trading at 246 of its largest stores across air and rail, which have historically represented around 75% of annual revenue. It noted: “We now have 53% of our UK Travel store estate open and we remain focused on increasing average transaction value in these locations.”

On operations elsewhere, it added: “In the US, where approximately 85% of passengers are domestic, we anticipate a faster recovery versus the rest of the world. Overall revenue is down -80%, although we have seen an encouraging performance from the 147 stores that we have reopened to date with sales in these stores down -50%.

“Outside the UK and the US, we are seeing broadly similar trends to UK air with passenger numbers significantly down year on year and an increase in average transaction value. We now have 153 stores open across the rest of the world.”

For the full story and a WHSmith trading update from today, click here.

Germany

Passenger numbers at Berlin Tegel and Schönefeld airports reached a combined 693,000 in July, which was four times the figure in June. While the month-on-month increase was encouraging, traffic was still -79% down year-on-year.

On Sunday 2 August the two airports hit a new daily high since the restart of 31,000 passengers.

In recent weeks, returning travellers have been able to avail of coronavirus testing at the airports. So far, several hundred people per day have voluntarily taken advantage of this. Now, preparations are underway at both airports to test travellers coming from high-risk countries, as announced by the government.

UK

In encouraging news for travel in Europe, UK-based low-cost carrier easyJet said it expects to fly around 40% of its planned capacity in Q4 (July to September), peaking in August, compared to the 30% it had originally forecast. It said the increase reflected greater demand on key routes to holiday and weekend getaway destinations.

EasyJet says traveller demand has encouraged it to increase planned flight capacity through to September

CEO Johan Lundgren said in a Q3 trading update: “I am really encouraged that we have seen higher than expected levels of demand with load factor of 84% in July with destinations like Faro and Nice remaining popular with customers.”

The airline also urged the UK government to “use the temporary removal of Air Passenger Duty to support the recovery of UK aviation.” It added: “The pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on the aviation sector. It is one of the worst hit industries, and government action is needed across Europe to retain connectivity and a viable airline infrastructure. Without this we risk long term damage to the recovery. This would significantly quicken the reintroduction and growth of the number of flights and routes available in the UK, particularly outside London.”

Honduras

The government of Honduras said yesterday that it will reopen its airports in coming days, according to Reuters. Domestic flights will resume on 10 August and international flights on 17 August, said Minister of Economic Development Maria Antonia Rivera.

4 August

US

Travel and omnichannel retailer 3Sixty Duty Free & More has embarked on a reopening drive of airport stores, with a focus on engaging travellers through pop-ups, promotions and digitalisation. Airport stores open across the US market include those at Dallas Fort Worth, Charlotte, Orlando, Newark and Philadelphia. Full story here.

US

Delta Airlines has fine-tuned its August schedule following COVID-19 surges in certain parts of the world. The airline is currently operating more than 3,000 daily flights serving 239 destinations, with 206 flights in the US and 33 international flights.

One highlight is its newly reintroduced daily route between London Heathrow and New York John F. Kennedy International Airport.

In addition, Delta is reintroducing flights from its Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City hubs. It is also steadily building up operations in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle; with plans to resume services to destinations across the Atlantic, Latin America and the Caribbean. This includes flights to São Paulo, Dublin, Milan and Munich.

UK

British Airways is resuming flying to more destinations in August, although with continued low frequencies while the impact of COVID-19 persists.

In Europe flights will resume to Bari, Bastia, Bodrum, Bordeaux, Catania, Figari, Frankfurt, Genoa, Kefalonia, Lyon, Luxembourg, Malta, Paphos and Pula, while Antigua, Islamabad and Nairobi join the long-haul list of destinations.

UAE

Over the past week, Emirates has resumed flights from Dubai to Addis Ababa, Clark, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Prague, São Paulo, Stockholm and Seychelles. The airline is gradually expanding its passenger services to 68 cities in August, returning to 50% of its pre-pandemic destination network.

Emirates is gradually reintroducing its A380 into service, with services to Amsterdam and Cairo from this week, and to Guangzhou from 8 August. It has also introduced a second daily A380 service to London Heathrow.

Estonia

Tallink Grupp passenger traffic more than doubled in July compared to June as travel restrictions continue to ease in the Baltic Sea region. The figure of 617,206 was -50.2% down on July 2019 but sharply up on the 280,000 in June this year.

Normal route operations in July continued only on Tallinn-Helsinki, Muuga-Vuosaari, Paldiski-Kapellskär and Turku-Stockholm routes. Tallinn-Stockholm and Helsinki-Stockholm routes remain suspended and the Riga-Stockholm route operated four limited-capacity special trips during the month.

The company operated some new temporary routes and several additional special cruises during the month, which helped recover passenger numbers (and boost onboard spending) to some extent.

Tallink Grupp CEO Paavo Nõgene said: “This time last year we reported a record monthly passenger number for the month of July, this year I am pleased that we can report a two-fold increase in the number of passengers compared to the previous month and at least similar passenger numbers to the two first months of the year, before we were hit by the pandemic and our operations were almost completely stopped.

“Our goal for the months and quarters ahead is to remain focused, adapt quickly to market and demand changes and continue to offer the safest, most reliable and best quality maritime transport – both for people and goods – between our countries.”

3 August

Italy

Gebr Heinemann has opened its new store at Bari Karol Wojtyla Airport. It won the tender to operate the retail space on 7 February but the development was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It began renovation work on its 400sq m of space in May.

“Heinemann can resort to 140 years of experience in the travel retail market and we will fully dedicate this know-how with great enthusiasm and professionalism to Bari Airport and its passengers in these particularly challenging times,” said Heinemann Italia Managing Director Fulvio Fassone.

USA

United Airlines plans to resume service on nearly 30 international routes in September, including flights to Asia, India, Australia, Israel and Latin America. The airline intends to fly 37% of its overall schedule in September compared to the same period last year and is a +4% increase in capacity compared to what is planned for August 2020.

“We continue to be realistic in our approach to building back our international and domestic schedules by closely monitoring customer demand and flying where people want to go,” said United Vice President of International Network and Alliances Patrick Quayle.

Within the US, United intends to fly 40% of its schedule in September. The airline will add more than 40 daily flights on 48 routes to locations including Austin, Texas; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Santa Barbara, California. Additionally, United plans to resume service between the US Mainland and Hilo and Kauai and increase flying to Honolulu, Kona and Maui in the Hawaiian Islands.

Internationally, the airline expects to resume service next month on 20 routes in Latin America and the Caribbean, including to popular vacation destinations like Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta in Mexico and to San Jose and Liberia in Costa Rica. It will also begin new non-stop service between Chicago and Tel Aviv and resume eight routes in the Atlantic and Pacific, including the return of European service from Houston with flights to Amsterdam and Frankfurt.

International

Dufry Group has plans to reopen around 50% of its stores by the end of August, representing 70% of sales capacity. The company outlined its updated plan for reopenings as it revealed first-half performance today.

By the end of July around 40% of stores were open, including those in UK, Spain, Switzerland, Mexico, US, Turkey, Russia, Hong Kong, India, Cambodia, South Korea and Kuwait.

Based on an online survey of Dufry customers in June, the retailer said that 58% had a flight booked for 2020 and encouragingly, most intend to engage with the duty free shop and interact with staff.

Full story here.

31 July

Russia

Moscow Domodedovo Airport served 717,000 travellers in June, three times more than in May, and almost all on domestic routes. Key destinations included Simferopol, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Novosibirsk and Mineralnye Vody.

In June, flights resumed from Domodedovo to Kirovsk, Bugulma, Tyumen, Lipetsk and Cherepovets, with the domestic network now spanning 60 destinations.

Russia

Turkish Airlines will be the first foreign carrier to resume flights between St. Petersburg Pulkovo Airport and the Turkish cities of Istanbul and Antalya, starting from this weekend.

Five weekly services to Istanbul will begin on 2 August. Turkish Airlines flights from St. Petersburg to Antalya will launch on 10 August.

Russian visitors are a vital source of tourism income in Turkey and contribute strongly to travel retail sales in Antalya in particular.

Earlier this month low-cost carrier Wizzair announced plans to begin new services from Pulkovo to the Italian cities of Bergamo, Venice, Bologna, Turin, and Catania, from December.

That followed the news that Wizzair would establish a new base at Pulkovo from September, its first in Russia. Among the first destinations served (from 18 September) will be Salzburg (Austria), Oslo (Norway), Copenhagen (Denmark), Stockholm Skavsta (Sweden) and Malta.

Baltic Region

Tallink Grupp will extend its cruise schedule to Helsinki and the Åland islands during August and September. It will make two additional weekend cruises with its vessel Romantika, from Riga–Helsinki–Riga (21 August) and Riga–Mariehamn–Riga (4 September).

The move comes on top of a robust schedule already announced and in response to popular demand, said Tallink. Importantly the sailings offer the potential for duty free sales, with the Åland Islands deemed a third territory for indirect taxation, although it is a region of Finland.