Logan’s International Operations Examined

Ever since I first became interested in aviation, I knew that Boston Logan had a number of international flights — mainly because it was the closest airport to my home in Maine that flew to Europe. Logan had all of the major European markets served: London, Paris, Frankfurt, Dublin, etc.

Due to my fascination with transatlantic operations, and the fact that Portland didn’t have anything even close to those type of flights, I looked at Logan with some envy — perhaps ironic given that it’s my favorite airport now. However, the one thing that I couldn’t help but notice was that — for all the European markets that Logan served — it had nothing in terms of flights to the Far East since Korean Air canceled its Seoul – Washington – Boston – Seoul triangle route back in 2001. That was my consolation: in that respect, Logan would always be inferior to behemoth airports in places like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

How things have changed. In April 2012, which was during the first spring that I was an undergraduate at Brandeis University, Japan Airlines started regular flights to Tokyo-Narita, which also saw Boston get its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Just under two years later, in March of 2014, Emirates began flying from Boston to Dubai with the Boeing 777-200LR. Turkish Airlines — though based at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, which is not physically in Asia — was next to join the party two months later in May, and the Turkish Airbus A330s and A340s became a familiar sight in the skies around Logan before long.

A month later, in June of 2014, Hainan Airlines started flying to Beijing from Boston on its Boeing 787 aircraft. In just over two years, Logan had gone from having absolutely no direct service to Asia to service to four major Asian markets — two in the Middle East, and two in the Far East.

The Growth Keeps Going

Given the sudden influx of long-haul flights, it would be natural to assume that new developments would be idle for a period of time. In reality, though, that was not the case: the spring of 2015 saw a number of interesting changes. Hainan increased its Beijing service from 4 times per week to daily, and additionally launched another nonstop route to Shanghai.

Also during that year, Cathay Pacific launched 3 times weekly flights to Hong Kong, bringing Boston’s first nonstop service to Hong Kong. El Al commenced service to Tel Aviv, marking the fourth destination on United States soil that the flag carrier of Israel serves, and Emirates increased its level of service from one to two daily flights. Indeed, the landscape of aircraft tails parked at Terminal E is virtually unrecognizable from those that were there at the turn of the decade.

It’s not just new flights that have been making the headlines in Boston, though. Logan’s 5.7% YoY growth from 31,634,445 in 2014 to 33,449,580 passengers in 2015 was rather impressive, as were the percentage increases in passengers traveling to the Middle East (67.8) and AsiaPAC (85.3). European flights, meanwhile, have remained strong, and 2015 saw Boston notch a 3.8% YoY increase of passengers traveling to and from Europe.

In addition to the overall passenger counts, the fact that European passenger counts remained strong — and indeed increased — in the face of significant new service to Asia being launched is quietly impressive, especially considering that many passengers traveling from Boston to Asia would traditionally go through places like London-Heathrow, Paris, and Frankfurt, all cities which Logan serves with direct flights.

What’s Next?

As I’m writing this, Logan has a number of international flights slated to start this year, with destinations such as Cologne, Copenhagen, Doha, Dusseldorf, London-Gatwick, Manchester (UK) and Oslo lined up. And while only one of those cities is not in Europe, the growth is definitely impressive. Transatlantic carrier Norwegian, who will be operating to the two Scandinavian destinations plus London-Gatwick, might use the airport for further operations in the future, including possible flights to Cork, Ireland and Stockholm.

There are a number of contributing factors to this emergence. However, there is one underpinning constant: Boston’s economy is booming. With strength in sectors such as education, finance, and technology, among numerous other areas, there are a large number of business travelers going to and coming from Boston. Furthermore, said business travelers also make up a significant number of “F” and “J” seats — first and business, respectively, which are the classes that airlines ultimately look to when examining profitability. Of course, some F and J tickets will be leisure travelers, but strong business sectors at both ends of a flight are often tied with an airline’s ability to sell F and J tickets, as Boston has proved.

It’s a bit premature to suggest that Logan will start to see flights to destinations such as Mumbai, Seoul, or Singapore. However, the impressive growth in international service has Boston transit officials no doubt optimistic for the future — and rightly so.