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Why More Airlines Are Offering Direct Flights

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Though the pandemic doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon, the appetite for travel is strong. According to new research from Destination Analysts, 68.2% of Americans are planning or hoping to travel in the near future and airlines are more than ready to meet the demand by offering more direct flights to globetrotters.

The emergence of more direct flights is a trend that sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights are closely following.

“The biggest trend is more flights to leisure destinations, whether domestic or abroad,” said Robert Feinberg, marketing expert at Scott’s Cheap Flights. “(In mid-October), United announced 10 new routes for this winter to vacation destinations like Aspen, the Bahamas, Las Vegas and Costa Rica.”

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Many of these flights originate in big hubs like San Francisco or Chicago, but airlines have also added more direct flights aimed at vacationers from smaller airports that may not have had nonstop service to these destinations in the past, Feinberg explained.

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“Two of United’s new routes are from Cleveland to Nassau, Bahamas, and Indianapolis to Orlando,” he said.

And United is certainly not the only airline rolling out new direct flights. Allegiant Air is now offering nonstop service from Des Moines, Iowa, to Portland, Oregon, Houston and San Diego. In April, JetBlue announced new direct routes from Boston to Kansas City, Milwaukee and Asheville, North Carolina.

As Feinberg noted, it’s not just domestic travel seeing a surge in new direct routes, it’s international travel, too. One airline honing in on direct international flights is Finnair.

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“We are already flying direct from Helsinki to New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago,” said Caroline Borawski, general manager, North America, Finnair. “This winter season, we are also starting direct flights between Arlanda, Stockholm, and Miami (Oct. 23), Los Angeles (Nov. 3) and New York (Dec. 7). Along with serving North America from Helsinki Airport, we will introduce direct routes from Miami International Airport, Los Angeles Airport, and New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport to Sweden’s Stockholm Arlanda Airport.”

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Finnair is not only rolling out the new direct routes because of increased demand for travel as vaccination rates increase (though that is one driving factor), but also because 2020 was such a catastrophic year for air travel.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire airline industry severely and Finnair is no exception,” said Borawski. “The strict travel restrictions imposed by several countries are still affecting our global passenger traffic figures.”

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Finnair is eyeing a successful rebound in consumer travel, but it won’t come instantly.

“We have previously estimated that our passenger figures will go back to the pre-pandemic level at the earliest in 2023,” Borawski said.

But not all traffic is down for Finnair. Cargo flights, for instance, are performing well.

“While there’s been a reduction in passenger traffic, the amount of cargo being transported by air has remained stable,” Borawski said. “In the past 1.5 years, we have seen Finnair Cargo become an even more vital part of our business.”

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Going forward, we can expect more airlines rolling out direct routes that didn’t previously exist.

“I think things will continue in much the same cautious way for the foreseeable future,” Feinberg said. “This report from Deloitte on the future of business travel predicts by the end of next year, business travel may still be as low as 65% of 2019 levels while the American Hotel and Lodging Association predicts business spending isn’t anticipated to recover fully until 2024 or later. Without these lucrative business travelers, airlines will continue throwing point-to-point leisure routes on the board to see what sticks.”

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Last updated: Oct. 14, 2021