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A transatlantic flight is the flight of an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, Africa, or the Middle East to North America, Central America, or South America, or vice versa. Such flights have been made by fixed-wing aircraft, airships, balloons, and other aircraft.

Early aircraft engines did not have the reliability needed for the crossing, nor the power to lift the required fuel. There are difficulties navigating over featureless expanses of water for thousands of miles, and the weather, especially in the North Atlantic, is unpredictable. Since the middle of the 20th century, however, transatlantic flight has become routine, for commercial, military, diplomatic, and other purposes. Experimental flights (in balloons, small aircraft, etc.) present challenges for transatlantic fliers.

HistoryEdit

Present day Edit

In 2015, 44 million seats were offered on the transatlantic routes, an increase of 6% over the previous year. Of the 67 European airports with links to North America, the busiest was London Heathrow Airport with 231,532 weekly seats, followed by Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport with 129,831, Frankfurt Airport with 115,420, and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol with 79,611. Of the 45 airports in North America, the busiest linked to Europe was New York John F. Kennedy International Airport with 198,442 seats, followed by Toronto Pearson International Airport with 90,982, New York Newark Liberty International Airport with 79,107, and Chicago O'Hare International Airport with 75,391 seats.[1]

Million seats offered
Airline 2005 2015
Delta Air Lines 2.79 5.33 91%
British Airways 4.93 4.85 -2%
United Airlines 2.37 4.78 102%
Lufthansa 2.99 3.80 27%
American Airlines 2.87 2.84 -1%
Air Canada 1.78 2.76 55%
Air France 2.23 2.49 12%
Virgin Atlantic Airways 1.84 2.38 29%
US Airways 1.13 1.75 55%
KLM 1.12 1.45 29%

Joint ventures, allowing coordination on prices, schedules, and strategy, control almost 75% of Transatlantic capacity. They are parallel to airline alliances: British Airways, Iberia and American Airlines are part of Oneworld; Lufthansa, Air Canada and United Airlines are members of Star Alliance; and Delta Air Lines, Air France, KLM and Alitalia belong to SkyTeam. Low cost carriers are starting to compete on this market, most importantly Norwegian Air Shuttle, WestJet and WOW Air.[2] A total of 431 non-stop routes between North America and Europe were scheduled for summer 2017, up 84 routes from 347 in 2012 – a 24% increase.[3]

In 2016 Dr. Paul Williams of the University of Reading published a scientific study showing that transatlantic flight times are expected to change as the North Atlantic jet stream responds to global warming, with eastbound flights speeding up and westbound flights slowing down.[4]

In February 2017, Norwegian Air International announced it would start transatlantic flights to the United States from the United Kingdom and Ireland in summer 2017 on behalf of its parent company using the parent's new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft expected to be delivered from May 2017.[5] Norwegian Air performed its first transatlantic flight with a Boeing 737-800 on 16 June 2017 between Edinburgh Airport and Stewart Airport, New York.[6] The first transatlantic flight with a 737 MAX was performed on 15 July 2017, with a MAX 8 named Sir Freddie Laker, between Edinburgh Airport in Scotland and Hartford International Airport in the US state of Connecticut, followed by a second rotation from Edinburgh to Stewart Airport, New York.[7]

Long-Haul low-cost carriers are emerging on the transatlantic market with 545,000 seats offered over 60 city pairs in September 2017 (a 66% growth over one year), compared to 652,000 seats over 96 pairs for Leisure airlines and 8,798,000 seats over 357 pairs for mainline carriers.[8] LCC seat grew to 7.7% of North Atlantic seats in 2018 from 3.0% in 2016, led by Norwegian with 4.8% then WOW air with 1.6% and WestJet with 0.6%, while the three airline alliances dedicated joint ventures seat share is 72.3%, down from 79.8% in 2015.[9] By July 2018, Norwegian became the largest European airline for New York, carrying 1.67 million passengers over a year, beating British Airways’s 1.63 million, while the U.S. major carriers combined transported 26.1 million transatlantic passengers.

Busiest routesEdit

The twenty busiest commercial routes between North America and Europe (traffic traveling in both directions) in 2010 were:

Rank North American
Airport
European
Airport
Passengers
2010
Airline
1 John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City, United States Heathrow Airport, London, United Kingdom 2,501,546 American Airlines, Finnair, British Airways, Iberia, Air France, Delta, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines, Lufthansa, Austrian
2 Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, United States Heathrow Airport, London, United Kingdom 1,388,367 United Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Finnair, Air New Zealand, Delta, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, Austrian, Brussels Airlines
3 John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City, United States Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, France 1,159,089 American Airlines, Finnair, British Airways, Iberia, Norwegian, XL Airways, Air France, Delta, Lufthansa, Brussels Airlines, United Airlines, La Compagnie
4 O'Hare International Airport Chicago, United States Heathrow Airport, London, United Kingdom 1,110,231 American Airlines, Finnair, British Airways, Iberia, Brussels Airlines, United Airlines, Lufthansa, Austrian
5 Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, Montreal, Canada Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, France 1,105,007
6 Newark Liberty International Airport, New York City, United States Heathrow Airport, London, United Kingdom 1,065,842
7 Toronto Pearson International Airport, Toronto, Canada Heathrow Airport, London, United Kingdom 926,239
8 O'Hare Airport Chicago, United States Frankfurt Airport, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany 866,733
9 Logan International Airport, Boston, United States Heathrow Airport, London, United Kingdom 851,728
10 San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, United States Heathrow Airport, London, United Kingdom 841,549
11 Miami International Airport, Miami, United States Heathrow Airport, London, United Kingdom 795,014
12 John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City, United States Frankfurt Airport, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany 710,876
13 John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City, United States Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport, Madrid, Spain 690,624
14 Washington Dulles International Airport, Washington D.C., United States Frankfurt Airport, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany 659,532
15 Orlando International Airport, Orlando, United States Gatwick Airport, London, United Kingdom 648,400
16 Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Detroit, United States Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Amsterdam, Netherlands 613,971
17 John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City, United States Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport, Rome, Italy 563,129
18 Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, United States Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, France 558,868
19 San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, United States Frankfurt Airport, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany 537,888
20 George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston, United States Heathrow Airport, London, United Kingdom 528,987

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