Flying to Europe this summer? Join the club

Key Points
  • European low-cost carriers have been adding transatlantic flights.
  • Legacy airlines have expanded their transatlantic schedules as well, especially to and from key hubs in the U.S.
  • Stronger demand has also helped drive the increase in flights across the Atlantic Ocean.
Source: WOW Airlines

Summer in Europe sounds delightful. Increasingly, Americans hopping on a plane and heading across the Atlantic Ocean.

In fact, there will be more than 59 million seats on airplanes making transatlantic flights between Western Europe and the United States, according to OAG which tracks airline traffic worldwide. That's up 43 percent compared to just five years ago.

Where are all those new flights coming from? Just look at Dallas, Texas.

Iceland becoming the 'hot' new destination

American Airlines is adding daily flights between Dallas and Reykjavik, Iceland. This comes within two weeks of Icelandair and WOW air, which are both based in Reykjavik, launching service between Iceland and Dallas.

"For the first time not only will you have non-stop flights from Dallas-Fort Worth to Iceland, you will have three flights from three competing airlines," said Henry Harteveldt with the Atmosphere Research Group. "Will they make money? Not on every flight, not on every route. It will be interesting to see how many flights from Dallas-Fort Worth are scheduled next year and to see if they last that long."

Photo courtesy WOW air

WOW air and other low-cost carriers based in Europe are responsible for much of the growth in transatlantic flights coming to or from the U.S. WOW air, which started flying in 2012, wasn't even serving the U.S. in the summer of 2014. Four years later it's expected to offer more than a million seats between the U.S. and Reykjavik, according to OAG. Many of those seats are being sold for as little as $99.

While some of the new flights to Europe are being offered by low-cost airlines, the legacy carriers have also been expanding their transatlantic schedules, especially in the summer.

Over the last five years, Delta, United and American have increased the number of summer flights to Europe by 11 percent. Some of that is because of stronger demand, but some of it is in response to other airlines adding service to cities where those legacy carriers have hubs or a major presence.

American Airlines decision to add daily service between Dallas-Fort Worth and Reykjavik shows the airline is prepared to protect its turf.

"We constantly evaluate opportunities for our network and summer travel has always been popular and fits with our network strategy," said Vasu Raja vice president of network and schedule planning for American. " We are excited to provide great service and connecting opportunities to Iceland from our DFW hub."

Harteveldt and others in the airline industry wonder if the growth in transatlantic flights can continue since they are being added by low-cost carriers who may get clipped by rising jet fuel prices.

"We don't know if all these airlines have financial staying power, so this may be a great summer for long haul low cost flights to Europe. We don't know what next summer will be," he said.

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