Each year, US-based airlines purge their route network of leisure routes to Europe. This cost-cutting measure usually takes place sometime in September or October. Typically, the European routes dropped will resume in in early spring. This five or so month period is when European leisure routes are the least profitable and see little demand. It’s not uncommon for some European cities to completely lose service to the United States during this period
However, US airlines have suspended or dropped more European routes from their networks than in years past. Among those carriers making additional tweaks to their route network are American and Delta. Most of these changes will be seasonal while some changes, will be permanent.
Why? Demand to Europe has declined sharply in recent months due to rising concern over terrorism, economic woes, and “Brexit.”
Routes Affected by Cutbacks
|Berlin, TXL||New York-JFK||Air Berlin||Major Cutbacks|
|Birmingham, UK||New York-JFK||American Airlines||Now Seasonal|
|Brussels, BEL||Philadelphia||American Airlines||Terminated|
|Dusseldorf, GER||Chicago-O'Hare||American Airlines||Terminated|
|Dusseldorf, GER||Los Angeles||Air Berlin||Major Cuttbacks|
|Frankfurt, GER||Philadelphia||American Airlines||Now Seasonal|
|Manchester, UK||New York-JFK||American Airlines||Now Seasonal|
|Nice||New York-JFK||Delta Air Lines||Major Cutbacks|
|Paris-CDG||Chicago-O'Hare||American Airlines||Now Seasonal|
|Paris-CDG||New York-JFK||American Airlines||Major Cutbacks|
|Venice||New York-JFK||Delta Air Lines||Major Cutbacks|
The table above shows a list of recent terminations or seasonal changes, however, does not include routes that in years past have been seasonal. One of the most notable changes is American Airlines’ decision to make Chicago-O’Hare to Paris-CDG seasonal. For more than two decades, American has maintained a route from Chicago to Paris year round. Another route affected by a massive decline in French tourism is New York-JFK to Nice. Delta will trim flights to Nice to roughly two flights a week.
Not only has demand in travel to Europe been affected by the annual seasonal lull, but rising concerns related to terrorism and the European economy. In recent months, terrorist attacks have hit Paris, Nice, Brussels, and various cities throughout Germany. This has led to an increase in security concerns especially for tourists and those visiting Europe from abroad. Economic woes have also led to a decline in demand to Europe. UK based Ryanair directly attributed this decline in demand to the “Brexit.”
How Bad is Demand?
US based air carriers have released their passenger and operational statistics for August, a month that typically sees favorable demand to Europe. The table below outlines the effects of decrease demand to Europe.
|Airline||Average Trans-Atlantic Load (% of Seats Filled)||Decline (% from previous year)|
|Delta Air Lines||82.8||4.2|
How Long will this Last?
I’m not an economist, and I have no idea how long terrorism will pose a threat, so, I don’t know. Of course, international route demand can be erratic. This downsloping demand curve, unfortunately, is not expected to change. Demand to Europe is forecasted to decline (albeit less extreme) or remain weak. Until economic woes and concerns related to terrorism fade away, leisure travelers and some business travelers will avoid Europe.
Airlines regularly suspend service to European cities during the off-peak travel season. However, demand to Europe has been hit especially hard following continued economic woes, Brexit, and terrorism. To maximize revenue and fleet allocation, airlines have cut or suspended more routes than in years past. Unfortunately, for passengers that will travel to Europe this off-season, they can expect higher ticket prices. With fewer seats on the market, expect higher fares. Additionally, there’s no immediate end in sight either.