The airlines begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel that has been the Covid-19 . In Spain, the end of the state of alarm on May 9 gave the starting signal to trips that for more than a year have been reduced to a minimum. Airlines have been planning a return to operations for weeks and have designed their route map “cautiously” while looking at the end of restrictions in neighboring countries.
The big brands that operate in our country – such as Iberia , Vueling, Air Europa, Ryanair or Easyjet, among others – have focused their planning efforts on recovering connections with Latin America and Europe, leaving Asia, the first region to accuse the virus, for a second moment, when the countries of this continent open borders.
In addition, they have taken the opportunity to recover routes that in previous summer periods had been discarded, such as some of the domestic ones , due to lack of aircraft that are now being redirected. Given the new summer season in which domestic tourism is expected to be booming , the different brands have opted for a schedule in which this type of flight has more weight than ever before, trying to reach 70% of capacity 2019 total.
Ryanair has programmed the largest domestic flight map in its history, with more than 70 routes that connect the most touristy Spanish destinations . Iberia has also done the same through its Express brand, which in July and August will recover the capacity it had in the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands in 2019. In addition, its alliance with Air Nostrum will also allow the entire offer of the regional airline to be recovered with compared to 2019, with 60 additional cross routes to those operated for Iberia with origin or destination in Madrid.
Without leaving the IAG Group, Vueling , which operates based in Barcelona, has also opted for the national market, with 26 domestic routes from Barcelona to other parts of the country.
Europe regains its rhythm
Outside our borders, Europe is picking up its pace by leaps and bounds. The airlines have recovered a large part of their summer routes that, beyond the big cities of the Old Continent in which during the last months the correct frequencies have been maintained to survive, they add destinations such as the Greek islands, areas of southern Italy or Star markets for the summer like Croatia, with different connections to cities like Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar.
Portugal will also be a vacation spot for Spaniards and most of the airlines operating in our country have recovered almost all of their connections with the neighboring country. Air France-KLM , for its part, will operate various routes to Paris and Amsterdam from eight Spanish airports, including the new connection that connects the latter city with Palma de Mallorca.
And the fact is that the presence of international airlines in our country not only allows foreigners to enjoy their vacations on our coast, it also opens the door for nationals to explore other geographies.
Latin America remains
The other great destination par excellence from Spain is Latin America. The Madrid Barajas hub connects, through numerous airlines, including Iberia, Air Europa and Iberojet (formerly Evelop) , the capital with almost all Latin American countries.
During the worst months of the pandemic, many of them reduced the frequency of their flights, even eliminating some routes, but they maintained the natural connection that exists between both regions. With the end of the state of alarm, the advance of the vaccination and the improvement of the forecasts, the airlines have started to work to recover the pre-pandemic traffic and have reinforced routes that were maintained and added others.
On the other hand, the enormous differences that exist between each of the Latin American countries make it very difficult to generalize the recovery situation in the region.
Iberia , for example, this summer will have connections with 18 destinations in Latin America , highlighting its direct operations with Guayaquil (Ecuador) and, as of July, also the route with Cali and San Juan de Puerto Rico.
In addition, it is still pending the opening of Venezuela to resume the connection with Caracas. For its part, the old Evelop has decided to expand its connections with fully tourist markets, such as Cuba, and take up other vacation markets, such as Cancun.
Timid reopening of the US
The great market pending to recover is the United States. Although all the large airlines that operate from Adolfo Suárez Madrid Barajas or from El Prat have maintained an active connection checkpoint with the country now governed by Joe Biden, the recovery is taking longer than desired, but the first green shoots that could put airplanes connecting both parts of the Atlantic Ocean back in the sky.
The North American country continues to have its borders closed to Europeans , with few exceptions, which makes it difficult to return to normality. In the last week, the European Union made a first gesture of rapprochement, allowing the entry of US nationals into community territory.
With their sights set on the next step, companies have started to gradually recover their flights with this country. In this sense, Air Europa – immersed in the purchase operation by Iberia – has announced that it will resume its flights to Miami on June 12, and will resume its operations to New York from the 25 of that same month with three connections a week.
Iberia , for its part, maintained flights to New York and Miami for months, but as of this Tuesday it also incorporates connections with Chicago to its network. In addition, from the month of July it will add Boston and Los Angeles to its list of destinations.
Foreign flag airlines, such as Delta , are also improving their frequencies between the Iberian Peninsula and the United States. Specifically, Delta maintained a daily flight between Madrid and New York JFK . As of June 6, it will add three weekly flights that will connect Barcelona and New York JFK. In addition, in August it will add one more to its connection map, which will allow Catalan passengers to fly to Atlanta , also with a frequency of three flights a week.
The aeronautical sector trusts that “sooner rather than later” the usual frequencies with the United States will recover, pointing to July as the key date for the reactivation of connections between both areas. In this sense, the CEO of IAG, Luis Gallego, pointed out a few days ago that he expected flights to the United States to be available at the end of June or early July “at the latest”, so flight planning with the the other side of the pond has begun to move for an early reactivation of mobility.
More than 60% of the American population has already received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, which has accelerated the return to normality of the country chaired by Joe Biden , in which the vaccinated can now do without the mask, even indoors.
This fact allows the airline sector to be optimistic regarding the recovery of its operations, waiting for the opening of borders for Europeans who have received the vaccine against the virus that has had the sector frozen for months in the short term.
Africa, little by little
The opening of Africa is also being timid. The airlines have recovered some connections with the Maghreb countries, such as Algeria, Tunisia or Morocco , but the closure of the latter’s borders, which lasts until, at least, next June 10, means that the return of tourism is still An utopia.
In another vein, companies such as Iberia or Vueling continue to operate routes from Madrid and Barcelona with other sub-Saharan African countries , such as Senegal or Gambia.
At the level of holiday destinations, the old Evelop, now baptized as Iberojet , will carry out a route that will connect Madrid with the Mauritius Islands during the summer season.
Asia is still pending
But if there is a market that is still on the list of pending destinations for airlines operating in Spain, that is Asia . To the already known problem of connection of the Iberian Peninsula with this area of the globe due to the lack of connections, is added the drop in the frequencies of the existing ones or even the elimination of some routes due to the impact of Covid-19.
Asian countries are reactivating their mobility in very different ways. Thus, for example, while Spain has already opened its borders to travelers from Japan, China, South Korea, Thailand or Singapore, certain regions of the Great Wall country have once again vetoed flights after discovering several cases of contagion. This is the case of Guangzhou, where the authorities have even closed streets to stop community transmission. With this scenario, airlines have avoided resuming their flights while waiting for an improvement in mobility prospects.
There are active routes to the Middle East , such as the one operated by Etihad Airways that connects Barcelona and Madrid with the United Arab Emirates, one of the main European ports to reach destinations in the Far East due to the lack of direct connections.
In addition, vacation destinations, such as the Maldives , have joined the list of routes for airlines such as Iberia, which connects Madrid with the paradise of turquoise waters in the middle of the Indian Ocean in a direct flight of just over 11 hours.