Representatives from Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) and American Airlines held a joint virtual town hall for airport and Greater Philadelphia region stakeholders on May 12 to discuss the 2021 summer schedule, new flights, industry updates, recovery rates and planning strategies for 2021 and beyond.
“We are recovering, but not recovered,” said PHL CEO Chellie Cameron. “Our airline partners’ seat capacity for June 2021 is down 31 percent from June 2019, which was our passenger volume record setting year. But that is much improved from June 2020, when seat capacity was down 77 percent from 2019.”
Leisure travel is currently driving activity at PHL. “The most popular routes are to destinations where passengers can visit friends and relatives (VFR) and participate in outdoor activities,” said Stephanie Wear, PHL Director of Air Service Development and Cargo Services. “South Florida and locations near beaches and national parks have been especially popular.”
Wear added that recovery has been slower at airports located on the U.S.’s East and West Coasts, which traditionally rely on business and international travel.
“Remote working and travel restrictions have prevented American and our other airline partners from relaunching routes geared toward business and transatlantic travelers,” said Wear. “We are confident that transatlantic travel will come back, but we aren’t anticipating much demand until summer 2022.”
PHL is working to help jumpstart transatlantic service. This week PHL and London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding which provides a framework for both airports to safely restart travel between Philadelphia and London. “This MOU will be critical to helping our airlines operate successfully on what is our largest transatlantic route,” said Wear.
Joining the town hall from American Airlines were Lakshman Amaranayaka, Vice President of Hub Operations for PHL, Ryan Isemeyer, Manager- Domestic Network Planning and Strategy, and Henning Greiser, Director of International Network Planning. Isemeyer noted that, in addition to its focus on leisure destinations, American is preparing for the return of business travel at PHL by adding seat capacity to cities such as Nashville, Atlanta, Houston, Boston and Austin.
Greiser discussed American’s commitment to keeping PHL as the airline’s main transatlantic hub. “We are slowly bringing back transatlantic service and we’re keeping a very close eye on the various countries and their stages of opening,” he said. American recently reinstated its Philadelphia to London, Dublin and Amsterdam service, carrying passengers and full cargo bellies. In August, American is scheduled to restore service between PHL and Athens, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris and Rome.
In addition to talking about passengers using PHL as the starting point of their journeys, Wear expressed the need for attracting visitors to Philadelphia. “Our city and region have great museums, restaurants and parks. We are in regular discussions with our regional destination marketing organizations (DMOs), elected officials, professional organizations and community groups on how we can all help restart the local market traffic base.”