The lesson is clear: Regardless of all obstacles, people (and goods) will always fly.

In December the airlines included a number of very long international flights in their flight schedules, demonstrating the strength and necessity of air transport. Part of the new flights are due to the increased demand for holidays and freight in the major cities. Many of them will have a small number of passengers (30 or 40) in a jumbo jet. But if it’s well loaded, it’s enough to at least pay for itself for many trips, the airlines say.

It could also mean nine, twelve or even eighteen hours in a confined space in the middle of a pandemic, a choice many potential aviators have avoided. Reliable ventilation and air filtration in cabins reduce the risk of virus transmission, but do not eliminate it. Even with the risks, the quarantines and the restrictions, the increase in the number of flights simply shows that there will always be people to go to.

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Center point

Scott McCartney discusses the ups and downs of aviation.

Air traffic is crucial. People want to travel – even with all their experiences – and these vital routes are the key to those connections, he says.

Patrick Quayle,

Vice President of International Networks and Alliances for United.

According to Cirium, an airline data company, the number of scheduled passenger flights worldwide in December was at least 3400 miles long – New York London – 23 percent more than in November, and amounted to 32,317 miles worldwide. The December schedule is still 70 percent lower than the December 2019 schedule, but the number of scheduled flights is three times the minimum for international long-haul flights in May.

In many countries, access is restricted to citizens, legal residents or persons who have received special permission from the government. Many of them require a 14-day quarantine or a covid 19 negative test. The requirements can best be found on the website of the U.S. Embassy in a particular country or on the U.S. Department of State’s travel information page.

Airlines claim that international passengers are generally of dual nationality and legally resident in the country, government officials, medical professionals and family members flying to see their dying parents or to attend weddings or other gatherings. The global diaspora of workers also created an increased demand for air travel during the pandemic.

There are still millions of people who have not yet been reunited with their friends and family, says Mark Drush, Senior Vice President of Revenue Management at Qatar Airways.

During the pandemic, Qatar showed some conditionality by maintaining flights to 30 destinations and even adding several new cities, including San Francisco. On Tuesday, Qatar announced the start of flights from Doha to Seattle in March, the airline’s 11th American city.

Australia has some of the strictest travel requirements. This requires approximately 14 days in a government agency and on arrival of flights there are restrictions on passenger loading based on the availability of quarantine beds.


The Australian airline has suspended all international flights, except to New Zealand, due to government restrictions. But United continued to operate daily flights between San Francisco and Sydney. It is the only airline that has never stopped flying between America and Australia.

Australia has strict quarantine regulations, but some travelers travel to places like Sydney despite the restrictions.


Holly Adams/Bloomberg News

stated that each UN flight is limited to approximately 35-40 passengers, depending on available government quarantine. The airline flies to Australia with a Boeing 787 with 250 seats. The transport of goods covers most of the transport costs and therefore the few passengers who are enough to make the trip interesting.

United has added flights from Los Angeles to Sydney to its flight schedule this fall. The same goes for Americans and deltas.

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Singapore Airlines,

who traveled to San Francisco and Los Angeles despite access restrictions in Singapore, resumed the longest non-stop flight in the world between Singapore and New York in November.

In addition, there are an average of 26 flights a day in each direction between the United States and London.

British Airways

will visit 12 cities in the United States, less than on December 22, 2019, but still important in the light of the pandemic. And Virgin Atlantic has more than half of its normal December flight schedule to the United States, reaching Boston, New York, Washington, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.


which serves 11 cities in the United States, half of what it used to serve, says that it evaluates flights every month and drops everything that is not profitable based on expected revenue for freight and passengers. What helps is that fuel prices are low. The airline uses smaller aircraft for rather busy routes and goes from a 509-seater aircraft to a 279-seater aircraft, for example, sometimes only flying two or three days a week instead of every day, they say.

Larry Ryan,

Lufthansa’s senior sales manager for the United States indicates that the weekly seat reduction is increasingly in line with demand.

He’s very popular and out-of-date, he says.

Lufthansa uses smaller long-haul aircraft such as this Airbus A340 on routes in the United States, where it has used aircraft with almost twice as many seats.


Alex Kraus/Bloomberg News

Many passengers fly with their families to Europe, the Middle East and Africa, he said. Africa currently plays a huge role in Lufthansa’s total long-distance revenue, a role it would never have played in the past, Ryan said.

Nigeria closed its borders for a long period of time and then opened several flights a week from the first week of December. It’s caused an influx of business travelers as well as Nigerians living in the United States, Ryan said.

United serves Frankfurt from six American hubs – the same number as last year – and according to Quayle, 70 percent of passengers pass through there. Before the pandemic, travellers were able to take non-stop flights to many other cities in Europe and beyond. To travel to Rome or Prague with United, they must contact Lufthansa in Frankfurt.

Airline executives expect a decrease in the number of long haul international flights in January – the December holiday is the reason for the increase. However, there will also be some expansion next year.

United, for example, adds flights to India. With 330 million people in the United States and a billion in India, there are enough people with special circumstances to keep flying. United travels to New Delhi from Newark and San Francisco, and this week the program will be expanded to include travel from Chicago. It also flies between Newark and Mumbai, and in the spring it will also operate a daily service between San Francisco and Bangalore, with five non-stop flights a day between the United States and India.

Due to the high demand for cargo space, the airlines have also introduced cargo flights. Delta launched cargo flights to Dublin, Madrid, Milan and Frankfurt, providing almost 2,000 charter flights for medicines, personal protective equipment, food and US mail alone.

Write to Scott McCartney at [email protected].


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