Competition in the airline industry is intensifying at Barcelona-El Prat airport, especially on long-haul routes to the Americas. In a bold move, United Airlines has announced the addition of a new daily flight connecting the Catalan capital with San Francisco starting in May 2024.
Although initially a seasonal connection, this strategic move places United Airlines in direct competition with Level, the only airline currently operating between the two cities, offering four weekly flights.
The choice of San Francisco as a destination is no coincidence; the San Francisco airport is one of United Airlines’ main hubs in the Americas.
Fight for the transatlantic market Barcelona – San Francisco
United Airlines’ announcement reflects the growing competition for transatlantic connections from Barcelona.
IAG, the group that manages Level, has expressed its intention to expand the airline’s fleet with three additional aircraft by 2026, strengthening its routes to key destinations such as New York, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile.
The United States has established itself as the leading intercontinental market for Barcelona airport. Level, owned by IAG, has been a pioneer on this route, and now faces growing competition from United Airlines.
United’s announcement includes a significant increase, nearly 20%, in seat availability between Barcelona and the United States beginning next spring.
In addition to the new route to San Francisco, United inaugurated this year the Barcelona-Chicago connection and already operates flights to Washington D.C. and New York/Newark, the latter year-round.
Multiple players in the market
United Airlines’ strategy is not unique in this context. Other airlines are also strengthening their presence in the transatlantic market from Barcelona. Delta and American Airlines, for example, are planning improvements to their offerings from the Catalan city.
American Airlines plans to add a new destination from El Prat next year: Barcelona-Dallas, complementing its existing routes to Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami and New York.
Aena data reveal that among the seven airlines with the highest passenger traffic on intercontinental flights from Barcelona are four North American companies: Level, Emirates, American Airlines, Qatar Airways, United, Delta and Air Canada.
Impact on tourism
This increased competition has had a direct impact on the flow of passengers between Barcelona and the United States. Last summer season, the United States led the long-haul seat supply from El Prat, with 587,994 seats available.
In addition, during the current holiday season, Barcelona is among the six most popular European destinations for U.S. travelers, according to an analysis by Allianz Partners.