THE SITUATION

Transatlantic flights are getting larger in number and to more destinations.European LCLH (Low-Cost Long-Haul) airlines lead the way.

THE BACKGROUND

Over 50 new routes were added in 2016, even when we take away the 28 services that were withdrawn that still leaves a healthy gain of 23.

The U.S. Big Three ( United, Delta, and American) still lead the way selling 10.35 million seats between them, but sales growth is relatively static with United -2%, Delta +2% and American +3%.

The fascinating figures for the longer term, are the growth rates recorded by the smaller airlines. Norwegian sold 42% more tickets in 2016, Air Berlin 57% more and Aer Lingus 21%. Taken in conjunction with small gains for other airlines, these figures reveal that 95% of seat growth is being made by European carriers.

The biggest percentage increase is recorded by an airline not yet in the Transatlantic top 15. That honor goes to Icelandic carrier WOW, which sold a massive 142% more seats. From a much smaller base, German airline Eurowings (part of Lufthansa) surpassed this with a 228% surge. The trend is set to continue with Air Berlin and Norwegian proposing to add a quarter of a million more seats this summer.

NEW ROUTES IN THE PIPELINE

All of this is against a background of new routes.This expansion is fueling the growth in capacity. It is expected that both Air France/KLM and I.A.G. (which includes British Airways) will soon make announcements of the establishment of new Low-Cost Long-Haul airlines. It is foreseen that a growing list of U.S. airports will join the list of direct non-stop flights from Europe. Hartford Connecticut joined that list with flights to Dublin, and New Orleans now has direct flights to Europe for the first time since 1982 (Frankfurt and London Heathrow). Currently, there is no sign of the launch of a U.S. L.C.L.H. carrier though rumors persist of a move in that direction by JetBlue.

CONCLUSION

The U.S. airline market is being shaken up by major changes.The consumer is the main one to benefit with falling prices and new routes. One major improvement is that direct flights to Europe will be a big bonus for U.S. travelers, who are used to facing hours of waiting for connecting flights.Anything that makes flying quicker and easier must be a good thing.It also opens up tourism markets both sides of the Atlantic, as more destinations mean more places to explore.And it is good for the business community too.