100+ new air routes signal a return to adventure in 2023

Crisis, aviation crisis? This is the week when international borders are once again closed, at least if you’re flying without a covid test before leaving China. But the summer of 2023 will see more than 100 new and revamped flight routes from and within the UK.

The expansion will come as a disappointment to those who believe there is already too much flying — including my flight-free colleague. The Independent, travel editor Helen Coffey. But they signal confidence from airlines that passengers are determined to travel more than ever, with many seeking new horizons.

The southern parts of the former Yugoslavia are getting as much attention as West Africa – and British Airways has a surprising new destination in South America.

An encouraging sign is that the majority of route launches are from airports outside London and Manchester. As airlines shrink their networks in response to travel restrictions, they are consolidating around Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and Manchester.

But in 2023 other airports are regaining their mojo. Belfast International is benefiting from Ryanair’s return, scale; Bristol is getting some attractive new links; And Edinburgh has two new key transatlantic routes. These are the options for the new year.

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Belfast Bonanza

At least the summer season officially begins for airlines on March 26 – when the departure screens at Belfast International are suddenly filled with Rainair departures.

It’s not aviation’s so-called Big Bang, with the Irish airline taking easyJet’s dominance of Northern Ireland’s biggest airport. International links to Bergamo, Faro, Girona and Krakow are augmented by domestic routes to Edinburgh, Manchester and Stansted. And that’s just the first day; Another 10 links will be launched in the following days and weeks. Let the fare war begin.

On 22 June TUI Airways started flying from Belfast International to Melbourne – serving Orlando, Florida, not Australia. And George Best Belfast City Airport had a really important connection on April 23rd: from Lufthansa to Frankfurt, transfers to the world await.

Greek earnings

Aegean Airlines, one of the few “full service” carriers still flying in Europe, is launching summer flights to Athens from Birmingham, Bristol and Newcastle. The move will not only provide welcome competition to the Greek capital – it will also allow easy access to the islands and regional airports without direct flights from the UK and make two-centre holidays easier to manage.

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Bristol Fashion

In addition to the Athens link, Bristol also gets routes to Marseille, Porto and Venice on Ryanair; to Enfidha (Tunisia) on easyJet; to Antalya on Turkish Airlines Korenden; and to Chania and Malaga on Jet2.

Balkanization

Britain’s two biggest package holiday companies, Tui and Jet2, focus on the south-west Balkans. When the pound is very low during the cost of living crisis, very low local costs make them more attractive. From early May, Jet2 will fly from Manchester and Stansted to Tivat in Montenegro – the former Yugoslav republic now offering an alternative to expensive and congested Croatia.

The rival Tui links Manchester and Gatwick with Ohrid in North Macedonia (the country has recently been rebranded with a directional prefix). St Paul the Apostle Airport is the gateway to the stunning lakeside district shared with Albania.

BA route

From March 27, some lucky British Airways passengers will be on a Boeing 777 from Gatwick when they land in St Lucia and take a short onward hop to Georgetown, Guyana. Former British Guiana is the only English-speaking country in South America and a wealth of natural wonders.

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BA’s other intriguing route, launched on April 23, is Florence, known for its atmospheric diversions. If visibility deteriorates, don’t be surprised to find yourself landing or taking off in Pisa.

Capital connections

There are two key transatlantic routes to Edinburgh: Atlanta on Delta and Calgary on WestJet. Both have large hubs and extensive connections for their respective airlines. These are two links, with inbound traffic being stronger than outbound – which bodes well for Scotland’s tourism sector, as North America is the country’s richest market.

African Adventures

This winter, Tui started flying from Gatwick to Senegal’s capital Dakar and the West African city. A six-hour flight takes you to a tropical new world. Some call Senegal the “upmarket Gambia”; I like to think of the former French territory as a sophisticated African alternative to the Caribbean that will evolve in the coming years.

To see all the new UK routes in 2023 – and some for 2024 too – flight analyst Sean Moulton has an online list Here.

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