Last updated: 04:47 PM ET, Fri September 16 2016

Leisure Carriers Could Bring Americans Another International Option

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | September 16, 2016

Leisure Carriers Could Bring Americans Another International Option

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Long-haul low-cost carriers have made significant headway in the United States, with the likes of Norwegian Air and WOW Air gaining plenty of media attention with dirt-cheap no-frills long-haul fares. Now, members of another niche in the airline industry are setting their sights on an American expansion. So-called leisure airlines give U.S.-based fliers another option for overseas flights.  

Thomas Cook Airlines, one of the most recognizable names in the leisure air travel niche, has just announced a new route between the United States and England. The new service, which will connect Manchester with San Francisco, will join Cook’s expanding list of U.S. routes. Last year, the leisure carrier started flying to Los Angeles and Boston. In 2015, it took off for New York and Miami.

Serving more than tourists 

The airline’s CEO, Christoph Debus, has said that he expects the San Francisco service, which will start in May 2017, to attract U.K.-based business travelers as well as tourists wanting to visit Northern California. “Not only can passengers reach the stunning scenery of Northern California direct, they are also connected with the booming business hub of Silicon Valley.”

Cheaper flights will be available going in the other direction as well, with Bay Area travelers getting another option for direct flights to England. 

Once there, American travelers will have a chance to connect to the rest of Europe through the rapidly growing Manchester hub. An increase in the frequency of flights between Manchester and both Boston and Los Angeles will mean that Thomas Cook will have more than two million seats on sale between the U.S. and the Northern England hub next year. 

Condor offering direct flights from secondary cities

German leisure carrier Condor has also been expanding its transatlantic operations. The airline has announced new service to San Diego and New Orleans, to start next May. Condor already flies from Germany to U.S. destinations like Austin, Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale and Minneapolis. 

German fliers can use these flights to reach smaller hubs in the U.S., while Americans can fly Condor to its hub in Frankfurt, where they can connect to destinations throughout Europe. 

The German airline is actually part of the Thomas Cook group, so the two carriers have a common strategy for this aggressive U.S. expansion. 

READ MORE: Condor Airlines to Add Nonstop Flights Between US, Germany

A growing trend that could be good for U.S. fliers

If the expansion continues, these leisure carriers could not only help increase the number of overseas visitors to smaller cities like Austin and New Orleans, they could potentially give U.S. travelers another option for transatlantic flights from the U.S. 

The disadvantage, however, is that some leisure airline routes are only seasonal, since they mainly target tourists. However, the long haul leisure niche is obviously part of a growing trend. If it continues, it could bring a welcome alternative to U.S. legacy carriers, international flag carriers and long-haul low-cost carriers. 

If Americans embrace this other option for long haul flights, the leisure expansion could continue. Given the recent push by legacy carriers in the U.S. to scale back expansion plans, which would eventually lead to an increase in fares, having another option for international flights could become more important for deal-seeking American fliers. 

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