As we wrap up the year, the TPG team looks back at all the big travel announcements from 2023.
This includes wading through the near-constant stream of route-map updates unveiled by airlines around the world.
We’ve already rounded up the 10 best new airline routes of the year , and now the TPG Aviation team — consisting of Senior Aviation Editor Ben Mutzabaugh, Senior Aviation Business Reporter David Slotnick and Senior Reporter Jack Grief — has compiled his personal favorite new routes.
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Here they are.
Iceland: Pittsburgh to Reykjavik
Okay, I’ll admit it up front: this is a nostalgia play. I’ve long had a soft spot for Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT).
The airport was the main hub I flew into in my teenage years and early twenties when it was still a hub (and a sophisticated one at that). I have fond memories of the bouncy Dash 8 turboprop flight that took me from the small airport in State College, Pennsylvania, to PIT — where connection to the world awaited. It was a great place to connect.
Its “airmall” concept, introduced in 1992 when PIT opened a sparkling new terminal, pioneered the retail and food experience now common in US airports. After reaching PIT, I connected nonstop across the country. My first overseas flight was from Pittsburgh — USAir nonstop to Frankfurt.
But the 2000s were not kind to PIT. USAir, then rebranded as US Airways, struggled through multiple bankruptcies and eventually dropped PIT as a hub. The airport’s lineup of European nonstops — once a source of pride for a city the size of Pittsburgh — has dried up. The airport’s domestic flight schedule also shrunk dramatically as US Airways struggled to stay afloat and was cut after cuts to Pittsburgh.
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In recent years, however, PIT has had a resurgence, focusing on local demand and reshaping its domestic schedules across several airlines. With renewed stability and growth, the airport prioritized the return of overseas flights. There have been some wins, such as British Airways returning nonstop to London in 2019. Others have come and gone.
This brings us to Icelandair’s new nonstops from PIT to Reykjavík’s hub. For me, the story behind the route can be as exciting as the route itself. So, while Icelandair’s arrival at PIT may not seem high profile, it connects Pittsburgh to a second transatlantic route and allows me to relive the memory of the airport’s glory days.
JSX service to Boca Raton
I grew up under the arrival flight path at Florida’s Boca Raton Airport (BCT). Although the airport is used exclusively for general aviation, I was shocked when I saw JSX announce earlier this year that it would launch two new winter seasonal services from Boca in Westchester County, New York and Morristown, New Jersey.
JSX doesn’t operate like a traditional airline, and the carrier’s public air charter model means you can meet just 20 minutes before your flight and enjoy the convenience of departing from FBOs or fixed base operators. (JSX offers free drinks and snacks, as well as high-speed Starlink Wi-Fi.)
Behind the scenes: Tour JSX’s ultra-wide 1-1-configured jet
I’d like to try a new JSX flight, though fares — starting at about $1,000 — are pretty steep.
United’s new transpacific crossing
I find United’s current international strategy interesting. The airline is taking a big risk by betting heavily on continued premium international vacation demand for the rest of the decade. It thinks it can create some of that demand by introducing service to destinations that may not be intuitive or have strong business needs, but may have strong appeal to vacationers and those traveling abroad to visit friends and family.
To that end, Manila, Philippines and Christchurch, New Zealand, both represent that plan. Manila is in demand from Filipino Americans visiting relatives and travelers looking to explore islands throughout the Philippines.
Christchurch, meanwhile, is mostly a pure leisure sport. This route provides direct access from the continental United States to New Zealand’s South Island with its incredible scenery and adventure opportunities. This makes it more accessible – and therefore more attractive – to travelers deciding on a holiday destination
High-end competition: United will send its best aircraft on a new flight to Italy
Only time will tell if United can keep these routes profitable and if the larger strategy will work. For now, it’s interesting to see where the airline plans to go in the world.
JetBlue: New York to Paris
JetBlue is busy building out its transatlantic network, but no route has been more exciting to me than its new service to Paris.
Never too visited in Paris, JetBlue’s posh Airbus A321LR jets and glamorous fine dining are the perfect way to arrive or depart from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG).
Even better, JetBlue’s fares in the offseason are among the cheapest among the competitive set, giving you even more reason to try the airline’s flagging transatlantic services.
New flight to Tulum
It’s not often you see an entirely new international airport open, but that’s exactly what happened this month in Tulum, Mexico.
To visit Tulum’s gorgeous beaches and ancient Mayan ruins, travelers must fly east to Cancun and travel two hours by land — either by renting a car, hiring a taxi or taking a bus.
With the opening of Tulum International Airport (TQO), travelers can skip the drive and fly directly to the Yucatan Peninsula tourist hot spot.
The airport was originally scheduled to open this spring, but AeroMexico and VivaAerobus began flying there this month. For now, flights are all from locations in Mexico, with connections to Mexico City possible for travelers arriving from the United States
Five US carriers — American, Delta, JetBlue, United and Spirit — begin flying to Tulum from various domestic airports in March 2024, so it will be exciting to see the growth of this new airport.
A coast to coast turf war
I have been covering the airline industry since 2002 and have covered more storylines than I care to remember. I’ve enjoyed most of them, but few are as fun as a good old fashioned turf war. Some turf wars are straightforward tit-for-tat back-and-forths, but most occur where an airline retaliates against a rival’s unwelcome intrusion.
The 2000s and early 2010s may have been the high water mark for these aviation grudge matches. Many of them involved Northwest, perhaps the most egregious of the day for retaliating against carriers adding new routes to its hubs.
We don’t see them as much these days, but one new route that sparked some buzz came after Alaska Airlines announced new nonstop service between San Diego International Airport (SAN) and Washington, DC’s Dulles International Airport (IAD). The latter, of course, is a hub for United Airlines — and it hasn’t waited to respond to Alaska’s limitations.
Previous turf wars: Alaska Airlines defends its home turf in new feud with Delta
United already serves the route with three daily flights of its own, but — just a week after Alaska’s announcement — United said it will add a fourth daily flight to the route. Not only that: United decided to fly that additional IAD-SAN flight with a 364-seat Boeing 777-200. It’s the highest-capacity aircraft in United’s fleet, and it’s definitely an amazing choice to use for additional flights.
Normally, this route wouldn’t make my list of most exciting new routes, but the palace intrigue behind the turf war was enough for me. I am interested to see how this competition plays out in 2024.
American: Philadelphia to New York
After (temporarily) moving to Philly this year, I’m spending more time riding Amtrak than ever before. (I even earned Amtrak Guest Rewards Select Plus elite status for the first time in my life.) But when my travel plans called for trips to Long Island or LaGuardia Airport (LGA) or John F. Called to fly out of Kennedy International Airport (JFK), taking Amtrak to New York’s Penn Station isn’t always ideal.
Instead of taking multiple train connections (which always involve lugging bags up and down flights of stairs), I’m thrilled that American brought back its up-to-three-times-daily service between Philly and LaGuardia this year.
It’s probably the fastest way to get to Long Island, and I’m hoping Philly to JFK service resumes before I head back to New York City. Of course, some aviation insiders consider these flights to be “slot squatting,” but in this case, I’m certainly not complaining.
Avelo’s base in Wilmington, Delaware
Delaware has a rich three-decade history of making — and then reading — the US aviation map For much of the 1990s and into the 2000s, service at Wilmington Airport (ILG) – the state’s only passenger airport – was spotty. It endured several stretches without any airline service, giving Delaware the dubious distinction of being the only state in America without commercial flights. When it had service, it was often on the likes of carriers like Shuttle America and Skybus—the latter a short-lived ultra-low-cost carrier that lasted less than a year.
Hopes were perhaps highest in 2006 with the arrival of Delta, whose Delta Connection affiliate served the airline’s hub in Atlanta. However, it ended a year later, again with no flights to Delaware. Budget carrier Frontier tried Wilmington twice — once in 2015 and again in 2020 — but left after a relatively short stay.
That brings us to Avello, which announced it will make Wilmington its third base and bring airline service back to the state. Will it stick this time? This question is what led me to put Avelo’s ILG route on my most interesting list.
The airline started with five routes in February 2023 and is now up to 10 which suggests a good start. Let’s check back this time next year to see how it all goes.
JetBlue: Boston to Amsterdam
I’ve lived in Boston since 2020, so I’m always excited to see my new(ish) hometown connections and competitions.
JetBlue has been expanding its transatlantic presence over the past few years, targeting popular European destinations with historically strong demand or that can be economically served with JetBlue’s long-haul, narrow-body A321LR.
Amsterdam is its latest destination, and it’s been fun to watch the airline compete with the Delta-KLM joint venture in both New York and Boston. I haven’t had a chance to take advantage of the route yet, but I hope to soon.
I’m also excited to see JetBlue launch service from Boston and JFK to Dublin next year, along with flights from New York to Edinburgh. I went to graduate school in Edinburgh and tend to return to it often, so I’m always thrilled to see more services from the North East to the Scottish capital.