Welcome to 2021, a new year in which we hope to resume traveling to new places and exploring a world that has been put on pause for the past year.
Airlines had big plans to expand to new international markets in 2020, which were derailed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, many airlines drastically cut schedules and shifted flight networks to outdoor domestic destinations such as Colorado and Florida.
In 2021, we’ll see that trend continue along with delayed start dates for routes that were planned to begin in 2020, and even a few new international routes on the horizon. Here are some of the most exciting new airline routes set to begin in 2021.
Seattle (SEA) — Doha (DOH) on Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways is often rated one of the best airlines in the world and has continued to fly a good portion of its flight network throughout the pandemic. In fact, Qatar will be flying to more U.S. cities in 2021 than it did pre-pandemic.
After adding flights to San Francisco in December, Qatar Airways will start flying from its 11th U.S. city on January 29, 2021. Nonstop flights from Seattle to Doha will allow passengers to connect to Qatar Airways’ international network throughout Africa, the Middle East, India, and Asia.
A new partnership with Alaska Airlines will allow easy connections for travelers in the Pacific Northwest, where its Seattle hub is becoming a larger international gateway. Since Alaska Airlines is joining the Oneworld alliance in 2021, this strategic new route from Qatar Airways just might work.
New York (JFK) — Key West (EYW) on JetBlue
JetBlue rearranged its flight network in late 2020 by adding several new routes, which included a big expansion in Newark and a continued focus on Florida. Starting in 2021, JetBlue will add a few more Floridian cities to its route map, including the southernmost city in the continental U.S.
Nonstop flights from New York’s JFK Airport to Key West begin February 11, 2021, and will be the only flight operating between the two airports. JetBlue will compete with United, which flies to Key West from Newark (EWR), and both American and Delta, which fly the route from New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA).
The seasonal flights will operate five times per week through March and four per week from April 1 – 26. There is no service on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, and no flights on Saturdays in April. JetBlue will also fly a seasonal flight to Key West out of Boston (BOS).
Los Angeles (LAX) — Miami (MIA) on JetBlue
Miami is one of the most anticipated new cities for JetBlue. The airline has built a strong hub in nearby Fort Lauderdale (FLL), but many loyal JetBlue flyers will be happy to fly directly into Miami for a quick transfer to South Beach. While new Miami service will also be available from cities in the Northeast, the most exciting new route is JetBlue’s daily nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Miami, starting February 11, 2021.
This flight will include JetBlue’s Mint class with lie-flat seats, extra privacy, and gourmet meals. JetBlue will compete directly with American Airlines, which has a similar Business Class product, and the new competition should bring down the average cost of a premium flight experience between the two cities.
Orange County (SNA) — Boise (BOI) on Allegiant
Allegiant has held up better than I had expected during the pandemic. The airline has been able to keep flying much of its limited flight schedule between smaller markets and leisure destinations around the U.S. and has even continued to add new service.
Starting in February, Allegiant will begin flying to and from another Southern California airport with new service between John Wayne Airport in Orange County (SNA) and 8 Allegiant cities throughout the Western U.S.
Flights between Santa Ana and Boise begin February 12, 2021, and will operate twice per week on Mondays and Fridays. It will be the only nonstop flight between the two cities, connecting Idaho with the closest airport to Disneyland.
Chicago (MDW) — Long Beach (LGB) on Southwest
Southwest may have had the biggest shakeup to its domestic route network in 2020. Rather than cut cities from its map entirely, it simply reduced service in some cities and continued to expand in others, with plans to add 10 entirely new cities since the start of the pandemic.
Although Long Beach isn’t a brand-new city for Southwest, the easy-going, open-air terminal in the LA area is getting several new Southwest flights in 2021. This comes on the heels of JetBlue transitioning its Southern California hub from Long Beach to LAX, making room for Southwest to be the new dominant carrier in Long Beach.
New nonstop service between Chicago’s Midway Airport (MDW) and Long Beach (LGB) begins March 11, 2021, along with new service from Long Beach to four of Southwest’s other focus cities in Dallas (DAL), Houston (HOU), Reno (RNO), and St. Louis (STL).
This will allow Southwest fliers to reach Long Beach with one-stop connections from more cities in the Eastern U.S. and bring the total number of nonstop Southwest destinations out of Long Beach to 13, including Honolulu (HNL), which is another new route starting in 2021.
Orlando (MCO) — Honolulu (HNL) on Hawaiian Airlines
Say Aloha to more nonstop flights between Hawaii and the mainland in 2021. Starting this March, Hawaiian Airlines will fly the only nonstop flight between Florida and Hawaii with new service from Orlando to Honolulu. The first flight departs Honolulu on March 11 and it will take off from Orlando on March 13, 2021.
Westbound flights to Hawaii clock in at 10 hours 50 minutes and will operate on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Eastbound flights are 2 hours shorter and will depart on Sundays and Thursdays. Hawaiian will also add two flights per week between Austin (AUS) and Honolulu, starting April 21st.
Boston (BOS) — Belo Horizonte (CNF) on Eastern Airlines
The latest reincarnation of Eastern Airlines kept flying throughout the pandemic by offering several repatriation flights reconnecting stranded travelers to their home country. The airline’s strategy going forward seems to be adding nonstop flights in niche markets where there isn’t any direct competition.
Sticking with a focus on South America, Eastern Airlines will start flying nonstop to Belo Horizonte, Brazil from Boston, Miami, and New York. The first flights will depart Boston on March 28, 2021. Southbound flights will operate on Sundays and Thursdays, with return flights on Mondays and Fridays. Twice weekly flights will fly on other days of the week from both Miami and New York.
As the only airline flying nonstop between the U.S. and Belo Horizonte, Eastern Airlines will have an advantage over the major carriers for travelers that can fly with the limited schedule. Add in the low fares and two free checked bags, and you’ll definitely want to consider this new option when flying to Brazil.
Atlanta (ATL) — Cape Town (CPT) via Johannesburg (JNB) on Delta
Delta had planned to start flying this circle route in October of 2020. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this flight was initially postponed to January 2021. However, with the latest surge in cases, Delta has decided to once again delay this new South Africa service, which will now begin on March 28, 2021, barring any further delays.
Delta had previously flown nonstop from Atlanta to Johannesburg, but will now add a stop in Cape Town before flying nonstop from Cape Town back to Atlanta. Delta will be the only U.S. airline flying to Cape Town for most of 2021, since United doesn’t plan on returning to the city until late October.
Philadelphia (PHL) — Mexico City (MEX) on Eastern Airlines
At the time of writing, this new nonstop flight from Philadelphia to Mexico City isn’t currently bookable, but on its homepage, Eastern Airlines states that it will begin flying the route on March 28, 2021.
I would expect only a few flights per week, which is the trend with other routes flown by Eastern. American flew this route briefly a few years ago, but removed the flight from its schedule in January 2019. The new flights on Eastern Airlines will be the only nonstop flight between the two cities, which could be a popular flight since Mexico is still allowing international travelers to enter the country.
Houston (IAH) — Denver (DEN) on Southwest
Starting April 12, 2021, Southwest is returning to the airport where it began nearly 50 years ago. New flights will be available between Houston’s Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and five of Southwest’s “hub” cities in Dallas (DAL), Chicago (MDW), Denver (DEN), Nashville (BNA), and New Orleans (MSY).
The flights between Houston (IAH) and Denver will be in addition to Southwest’s existing service out of Houston’s Hobby Airport (HOU), and the connection in Denver will allow travelers to reach several cities throughout the West Coast with easy one-stop flights.
The new service, along with a similar expansion in the Chicago area where Southwest will begin flying from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport (ORD), means that Southwest will now be competing directly with United at two of its major hub cities.
San Francisco (SFO) — Bangalore (BLR) on United
United is expanding its presence in India by adding a nonstop flight between two worldwide tech hubs. The new flight from San Francisco to Bangalore begins May 6, 2021, and will be United’s longest flight, at 8,701 miles.
The United flight should have more potential than a new American Airlines flight from Seattle to Bangalore, which is now slated to start in late October after a one-year delay. However, United will have to compete with Air India, which is beating both airlines to the punch with a twice-weekly flight between San Francisco and Bangalore, starting January 9, 2021.
Charlotte (CLT) — Honolulu (HNL) on American
Demand to fly from the East Coast to Hawaii is increasing and American Airlines is following-up with a new nonstop flight between its hub in Charlotte and Honolulu, starting May 6, 2021. The seasonal service will run through September 7, and will allow American to better compete with Delta and United on 1-stop flights from smaller cities along the East Coast to Hawaii.
Hawaii currently allows travelers to avoid quarantine with an approved negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of their flight to Hawaii. Certain islands may have different requirements so make sure to visit Hawaii’s Department of Transportation website when planning a trip to the Aloha State.
Anchorage (ANC) — Las Vegas (LAS) on Alaska Airlines
New nonstop flights from Anchorage to Las Vegas will begin May 20, 2021. Flights will operate 4 times per week over the weekends, from Thursday through Sunday.
Sun Country Airlines briefly flew this route a few years ago, but has since discontinued its service, which means Alaska Airlines will be the only airline connecting The Last Frontier with Las Vegas, nonstop.
Cincinnati (CVG) — Seattle (SEA) on Alaska Airlines
Nonstop service between Cincinnati and Seattle, another route that had been scheduled to begin in 2020 (but ended up getting postponed due to the steep drop in demand for travel) will now start on May 20, 2021.
Cincinnati is a brand-new city for Alaska Airlines and the new service will compete directly with Delta, which has been battling Alaska Airlines for market share in Seattle ever since the two airlines went their separate ways back in 2017.
Newark (EWR) — Maui (OGG) on United
One of the most exciting new routes for travelers along the East Coast is a new nonstop flight from Newark to Maui on United. Flights begin June 3, 2021, and will be the only nonstop option between the East Coast and Maui.
Not only will New Yorkers be happy to enjoy a direct flight to this popular Hawaiian island, but it will now be much easier to reach Maui in a single day from several other cities in the Northeast. The nonstop flight clocks in at 10 hours 55 min and will fly seasonally through August 15, Thursdays through Sundays.
New York (JFK) — Los Cabos (SJD) on JetBlue
JetBlue’s new route expansion in 2021 also includes a new destination in Mexico. Starting June 17, 2021, new nonstop service from New York to Los Cabos will be the only daily service between the two markets throughout the summer schedule.
JetBlue will compete with weekend service on United from Newark, but no other airline will fly nonstop from JFK during the summer months. American and Delta are currently flying this route through early April, with seasonal service on American set to resume again in November.
It’s unclear if JetBlue plans to fly this route year-round, since its booking schedule is currently only available through early September at the time of writing. JetBlue will also fly to Cabo nonstop from Los Angeles where it will compete with all major U.S. airlines.
Dallas (DFW) — Tel Aviv (TLV) on American
American Airlines has its sights set on Israel with a new nonstop flight between Dallas and Tel Aviv beginning October 31, 2021. This flight was initially scheduled to begin in September 2020, but is now delayed just over one year due to the pandemic. American also has plans to start flying from New York to Tel Aviv, but a start date has not been announced.
The new route will be the only nonstop flight between Dallas and Israel, and the 6,960-mile flight will be flown on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, making it a comfortable experience for the 13 to 14-hour journey.
Boston (BOS) and New York (JFK) — London on JetBlue
Possibly the most anticipated flights in the history of JetBlue are its new flights to London. The airline still plans to launch flights from both Boston and New York to London in 2021 with its Airbus A321neo long-range aircraft.
JetBlue had hoped to acquire slots at London’s Heathrow (LHR) airport, but was denied its request for slots at the heavily competitive airport. Instead, JetBlue was granted slots at London’s Gatwick (LGW) and distant Stansted (STN) airports.
While JetBlue hasn’t announced when exactly the new transatlantic routes will start, it has said that it plans to begin the new service in the third quarter of 2021. Initial filings indicate that JetBlue will fly from New York (JFK) to London-Gatwick (LGW), and from Boston (BOS) to London-Stansted (STN). Of course, this is subject to change until we hear an official announcement from the airline. Let’s hope JetBlue can launch these flights later this year and continue to expand its low-cost flights across the pond.