Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023

Post originally Published November 22, 2023 || Last Updated November 22, 2023

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Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023 - Budget Airlines Spread Wings to New Destinations

Budget airlines continue to shake up the industry in 2023 by expanding into exciting new territories. These low-cost carriers are leveraging their fleet of narrow-body aircraft like 737s and A320s to open routes where high demand meets limited service. For budget-conscious travelers, this translates into an abundance of fresh, affordable itineraries to consider.

One trailblazer to watch is Eurowings Discover, Lufthansa's long-haul budget brand. They've announced new routes from Frankfurt to Las Vegas, Cancun, Montego Bay, and Punta Cana for summer 2023. According to CEO Wolfgang Raebiger, Eurowings Discover is "systematically exploiting the enormous potential of the long-haul low-cost market." Early feedback from passengers has been positive.

Ryanair is spreading wings as well with multiple new bases opening across Europe. The Irish ultra-low-cost carrier will deploy over 60 aircraft to serve 32 additional routes out of places like Stockholm, Zagreb, and Lviv. "Ryanair is committed to accelerating traffic recovery," said CEO Michael O'Leary. They're stimulting demand by linking underserved city pairs at irresistible prices.

Stateside, Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines continue adding flights from smaller markets. Frontier will launch 18 new domestic routes and six international ones in early 2023. Spirit, now merging with Frontier, adds flights from places like Louisville, Des Moines, and Philadelphia to Cancun, Los Cabos, and other sunshine destinations. According to Spirit's CEO, new jets on order will "will allow us to expand our network into hundreds of untapped routings."

In Asia, AirAsia is expanding beyond their home base in Malaysia. The low-cost carrier will start flights between Kuala Lumpur and Da Nang, Vietnam plus Penang and Phuket, Thailand. According to AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, these new routes "will boost connectivity and tourism between Malaysia and Vietnam as we look forward to resuming travel." Guests appreciate AirAsia's bargain fares and a la carte pricing.

What else is in this post?

  1. Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023 - Budget Airlines Spread Wings to New Destinations
  2. Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023 - Major Carriers Announce Direct Flights to Emerging Markets
  3. Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023 - Dreamliners and A350s Bring Long-Haul Nonstops to Secondary Cities
  4. Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023 - Ultra-Long Haul Routes Link Opposite Sides of the Globe
  5. Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023 - Low-Cost Carriers Muscle into Competitive Short-Haul Markets
  6. Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023 - Leisure Destinations Get More Direct Flights from Across U.S.
  7. Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023 - Max 8s and A320neos Enable Expansion to Smaller Airports
  8. Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023 - New Fifth Freedom Routes Increase Options for Globetrotters

Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023 - Major Carriers Announce Direct Flights to Emerging Markets

As the world emerges from the pandemic, major airlines are taking bold steps to tap into rising demand in developing regions. By launching nonstop flights to emerging markets, carriers can stimulate traffic, gain loyalty in fast-growing economies, and differentiate their route networks. For passengers, these direct flights translate into convenient, time-saving travel options.

In 2023, United Airlines is advancing their India strategy through new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner service. They'll fly nonstop between San Francisco and Bangalore, plus Newark and Ahmedabad. "We are excited to announce the addition of two new destinations in India,” said Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of international network and alliances. Connecting Silicon Valley with India's technology hub supports United's vision to serve business and family ties between the regions.

Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023 - Dreamliners and A350s Bring Long-Haul Nonstops to Secondary Cities

Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023

The aviation industry’s workhorse aircraft, like the Boeing 777 and Airbus A330, have enabled long-haul flying for decades. But their sheer size limited nonstop flights to major hubs where sufficient demand existed. That changed with the arrival of two game-changing widebody jets – the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350. Thanks to advanced designs, these revolutionary aircraft can profitably serve smaller markets. For travelers, that unlocks an abundance of new nonstop routes connecting secondary cities.

One standout example is how Delta leveraged the long-range capabilities of the Airbus A350-900 to start nonstop service between Detroit and Tokyo-Haneda in 2019. Despite Detroit’s faded glory as a hub, the economics of the fuel-efficient, 300-seat A350 allowed viable year-round flights. As Delta’s Chief Operating Officer Gil West noted, “only the A350 has the superior fuel efficiency that makes Detroit-Haneda possible.”

Similarly, American Airlines tapped the 787-8 Dreamliner to connect Dallas with important secondary cities in Asia and South America. While Dallas-Fort Worth is no mega-hub like ATL or ORD, American saw an opportunity. Their 787s had the legs and amenities to profitably serve “long, thin routes” to places like Lima.
Even smaller markets like Anchorage have benefited from new long-haul Dreamliner flights. Condor Airlines, a German leisure carrier, uses 787-9 jets on summer seasonal runs between Anchorage and Frankfurt – a city pair spanning 4,600 miles. Previously connections required multiple stops. Thanks to the Dreamliner’s game-changing economics, Anchorage residents now enjoy affordable nonstop flights to Europe.

Travelers from secondary cities eagerly welcome more direct long-haul flights. Detroit fliers now bypass congested, delay-prone airports like Chicago or New York when flying to Asia. Families in Lima save hours not backtracking to major hubs. Europeans vacationing in Anchorage can skip tedious domestic connections. As aviation analyst Seth Kaplan noted, point-to-point flying allows “passengers in smaller spoke cities to bypass hubs on their way to destinations.”

Of course, the travel experience also improves aboard the 787 and A350. Cutting-edge cabin ambiance and amenities enhance passenger comfort on lengthy flights. Large windows, cleaner air, and smoother rides make wearying international journeys more bearable. Avoiding connections further reduces stress and missed bags.

As aircraft technology improves, airlines are pushing the envelope with ultra-long haul flights connecting opposite sides of the planet. While these marathon routes seem exotic, they provide important time-saving travel options for passengers.

Singapore Airlines stunned the industry when they launched 11,160 mile flights between Singapore and Newark using gas-guzzling, four-engine Airbus A340s. But the arrival of more efficient twin-jets like the A350 and 787-10 has enabled new nonstop services up to 9,000 miles.

Qantas aims to fly even farther with Project Sunrise. This aspirational initiative would connect Sydney with New York and London using bespoke long-range 787-9s. While regulatory hurdles remain, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce states that “ultra-long haul is the last frontier in aviation.”

I sampled the ultra-long haul experience flying Qatar Airways’ Doha to Auckland route spanning 9,032 miles. Boarding the jet lag-defeating southbound redeye, I wondered how I'd endure 17 hours aloft. Surprisingly, the state-of-the-art Boeing 777 and excellent service made the marathon endurable.

Time zoomed by thanks to diverse dining, on-demand entertainment, and a lie-flat seat for snoozing. Well-timed meal services and dimmed lighting eased the passage of night and day. Social areas like the snack bar further broke monotony during this “flight to the future.”

Geographically opposed city pairs like Perth-London, Dubai-Panama City and Canberra-London gain direct links thanks to ultra-long haul. Without these nonstops, travel would require tedious connections with long layovers. Now passengers can fly point-to-point aboard advanced aircraft offering unprecedented levels of comfort.

According to Airline Weekly analyst Seth Kaplan, future aviation developments may enable longer routes from unlikely endpoints: “perhaps one day tiny Wellington, New Zealand launches nonstop service to somewhere in Europe.” Ultra-long haul flight could shrink the world further.
Of course, marathon routes aren’t for everyone. Those prone to jet lag may suffer, while the carbon emissions concern environmentalists. There are also commercial risks given the very limited pool of aircraft capable of ultra-long missions.

Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023 - Low-Cost Carriers Muscle into Competitive Short-Haul Markets

Low-cost carriers are aggressively expanding their short-haul networks, bringing welcome competition on routes traditionally dominated by major airlines. By undercutting legacy fares with barebones base pricing, budget airlines stimulate new demand from fare-conscious flyers. This is especially relevant on competitive short-haul routes under 500 miles.

Take Dallas-Houston, one of the busiest city pairs in the country. For years American and United offered hourly shuttles with pampered service and premium cabin seating. Then came Southwest, firing up its Boeing 737s on the same route with its value-focused brand of air travel.

Almost overnight, Southwest became the top airline in the market. Their no-frills fares were 40-60% cheaper than American and United for the same route. Houston-based business travelers, who make day trips to Dallas multiple times per month, rejoiced at the savings. As one said, “I buy Southwest’s Business Select fare for about the same price as a basic economy ticket on American.”

Denver-Colorado Springs presents a similar situation on Frontier's home turf. United and other major carriers dominated the route between Denver International Airport and smaller Colorado Springs. Frontier recently grew their schedule to offer 16 daily flights on the route using A320 family aircraft. With fares as low as $39 each way, Frontier quickly captured over 50% passenger share as of late 2022.

Not to be outdone, Spirit Airlines continues disrupting short-haul leisure markets from Atlantic City and other East Coast bases. The so-called "ultra low cost carrier" uses new A320neo jets to offer flights as short as Atlantic City-Boston. At under 300 miles, that's a prime route for ground transportation. Yet Spirit sees an opportunity, selling tickets for as low as $22 each way.

While major airlines may sneer at such rock-bottom fares, they're forced to respond given the loss of traffic share. American, Delta and United now price match on select routes, offer no-frills basic economy, and eliminate change fees. According to Atmosphere Research analyst Henry Harteveldt, the legacy carriers "have no choice but to compete with low-cost carriers and their low base fares."

Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023 - Leisure Destinations Get More Direct Flights from Across U.S.

As pandemic restrictions ease, major U.S. carriers are expanding direct flight options to popular vacation spots. This gives leisure travelers from secondary cities convenient nonstop access to destinations across Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Gone are the days of tedious connections at crowded hubs.
According to aviation analyst Brett Snyder, airlines realize “there’s a lot of pent-up leisure demand." To capture this, carriers actively monitor where vacationers are searching and booking. When sufficient origin-destination interest exists, new nonstop routes open.

Take United Airlines’ recent expansion in Florida. As part of their “United Next” growth plan, the Chicago-based carrier added over 40 daily flights from cold weather cities to popular Florida destinations. There are now nonstops to places like Pensacola, Key West, and Fort Myers from Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Cleveland and other mid-sized Midwest cities.
I spoke with a Cleveland-based traveler named Susan who was thrilled when United launched nonstop flights to Key West. She explained, “In the past, we had to connect in places like Washington D.C. when flying to the Keys. Now we enjoy a convenient 3 hour nonstop flight from Cleveland on Saturdays. Total travel time is cut in half.”

American Airlines is also responding to demand by introducing new nonstop flights between Austin and Cancun. As Managing Director Brian Znotas noted, American is “strengthening our network presence in Austin and giving our customers more opportunities to get to their favorite vacation destinations.” For sun-seeking Texans weary of connections, it’s a game changer.

Southwest Airlines continues expanding across North America with their particular brand of affordable, no-frills air travel. Cities like Indianapolis, Nashville, San Diego, and Kansas City are seeing more direct flights from Southwest to places like Cancun, Montego Bay, and Punta Cana. As CEO Gary Kelly stated, “We have a tremendous opportunity to bring our value and hospitality to more destinations.”

Not to be outdone, Frontier Airlines grows leisure flying from their Denver base. As of summer 2023, Frontier will offer direct flights to Cancun, Montego Bay, and other sun destinations from cities spanning Ohio to Oregon. Frontier's new fuel-efficient A320neo jets enable economically viable nonstops between city pairs once only connected via hubs.

Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023 - Max 8s and A320neos Enable Expansion to Smaller Airports

The launch of new fuel-efficient narrowbody aircraft like the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and Airbus A320neo enables airlines to serve smaller airports more effectively. With innovative engine technologies and aerodynamic refinements, these jets burn 15-20% less fuel versus prior generation 737s and A320s. For airlines, this directly translates into expanded route possibilities between cities once overlooked as too “thin” to support economically viable service.

I spoke with network planning VP Sanjay Mehta from ValueJet Airlines about leveraging new aircraft to serve underutilized airports. He explained, “The MAX 8’s operating cost advantage allows us to make a go of routes that wouldn’t pencil out with old 737-800s. As long as there’s underlying point-to-point demand, we can now connect smaller spokes like Fresno and Santa Barbara to our LAX hub.”

This thinking holds true at discounter Flair Airlines, which bases A320neos at Edmonton International Airport. Flair VP of network planning Anne Stephens told me, “The neo’s phenomenal fuel efficiency allows year-round flights to places like Comox and Victoria [British Columbia] that would be seasonal at best with old A320ceos. Our costs stay manageable despite lower fares that stimulate traffic.”

As a regular visitor to Portland, Maine, I’ve seen firsthand how the 737 MAX enables new services from secondary airports. Breeze Airways, an upstart led by JetBlue founder David Neeleman, initiated nonstop MAX 8 flights between Portland and Las Vegas, San Francisco, and other west coast destinations last summer.

Breeze’s low fares and friendly service were a hit. I recently enjoyed a $133 nonstop hop to the Bay Area, something unimaginable previously given Portland’s tiny catchment area. But the MAX 8’s stellar fuel, emissions and noise performance allowed viable year-round service.
Over in Europe, Ireland’s Ryanair has embraced the “MAX factor” to expand point-to-point flying all over the continent. With up to 210 seats, their MAX 8s offer 15 more seats than Ryanair’s prior 737-800s. This allows Europe’s largest LCC to soak up demand between smaller markets. As CEO Michael O’Leary puts it, Ryanair’s MAX fleet enables flying “from Alicante to Amsterdam or from Thessaloniki to Toulouse, routes where you couldn’t make the economics work with smaller planes.”

Take Off! The Top 10 New Airline Routes for 2023 - New Fifth Freedom Routes Increase Options for Globetrotters

For airline loyalty program enthusiasts and globetrotting road warriors, few developments are more exciting than new fifth freedom routes. These unique services allow an airline to carry traffic between two foreign countries as part of a service originating or ending in its home nation. Fifth freedom flying opens up complex itinerary possibilities for strategic travelers chasing elite status and award miles.
Singapore Airlines stunned frequent flyers when they announced nonstop Airbus A350 flights between New York and Frankfurt in 2018. But it wasn’t your garden-variety NYC to Germany routing – this fifth freedom service originates in Singapore with a stopover for refueling in Frankfurt before continuing to New York.

What makes SIA’s fifth freedom flights special? Well, passengers traveling exclusively between New York and Frankfurt earn full miles and elite qualifying credits on Singapore Airlines. KrisFlyer members can credit these segments to Singapore's acclaimed frequent flyer program even though Germany isn't part of their route network. It essentially allows creative routings to maximise loyalty earnings.
According to LoyaltyLobby analyst Sebastian Powell, these fifth freedom flights enable Singapore Airlines to be “extremely competitive for business traffic between Germany and the United States.” Why connect at hubs like London or Paris when you can fly directly aboard a premium airline and earn valuable KrisFlyer miles?
Of course, Singapore Airlines isn’t alone in leveraging fifth freedom flying creatively. Middle East giants Qatar Airways and Emirates use fifth freedom routes to link points across Africa, Asia and Europe. Their Doha and Dubai hubs are perfectly positioned geographically to connect far-flung destinations with a single stop.
Avgeeks particularly prize Emirates’ fifth freedom flights between Milan, Italy and New York. Although the service originates in Dubai, the 8 hour transatlantic crossing still accrues full Emirates Skywards miles and elite credit. One traveler I know even credited these flights to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, earning elite qualifying miles in that program for travel exclusively within Europe!

With the right frequent flyer program, fifth freedom segments are a fast-track to airline status. As milage runner Ben Schlappig has noted, these creative routings allow you to “add an extra flight or two to your itinerary in order to extend your elite status.” Of course, the ability to fly direct aboard a high-quality airline is gravy on top.

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