Logan's spurt of new international routes reflects changing business needs, airline industry

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

logan widens its Reach and its impact c.2013 The Boston Globe

Once considered among the most parochial of cities, Boston is becoming a gateway to the world.

Logan International Airport is set to add three more international carriers in the new year, making a total of four since July. That is more than any other airport in the country except Miami, which is also introducing four during the same period. And these airlines aren't flying just any routes.

The four carriers -- flying to Panama, Dubai, Istanbul, and Beijing -- plus a fifth that began service to Tokyo last year, open nonstop routes to some of the fastest-growing regions in the world. Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East were previously unreachable directly from Boston.

The proliferation of new nonstop international routes is the result of efforts by the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan, to connect Boston to the global economy. These efforts have been aided by smaller, fuel-efficient planes, such as the Boeing 787, which make it economical to run long-haul flights from mid-size markets like Boston.

In the past, overseas routes out of Logan have been leisure-oriented, concentrated in the Caribbean or Europe. But the new flights focus on the needs of businesses, from major financial institutions to small technology firms, which increasingly work with customers and suppliers around the globe. Foreign companies also are more likely invest and do business in Boston if it's easy to get here.

''We've got to project that our door is open to the world," said Governor Deval Patrick, who has played a key role in wooing international carriers to Logan. "All these new routes go to places where the action is in the innovation economy."

Among the companies that welcome the new international reach is EF Education First, an international education and tour company with North American headquarters in Cambridge. The company's staff takes about 3,000 trips a year in and out of Logan.

''It opens up capacity, better competition, better pricing, and for EF, potentially new tour experiences to offer," said Fredrik Manse, president of EF's in-house travel agency.

The new routes should also boost the region's tourism and higher education industries. Many of the state's colleges and universities attract international students, and the new nonstops, particularly Hainan Airlines' flight to Beijing and Emirates' route to Dubai, a gateway to India, should bring in even more -- and encourage their families to visit more often, airport officials said.

Overseas tourists make up 6 percent of Boston's 20 million annual visitors, but account for almost 11 percent of visitor spending, according to the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

China is one of the state's biggest and fastest-growing markets for international tourists, with nearly 150,000 Chinese travelers visiting Massachusetts last year. And that was without a nonstop flight to Boston, noted Patrick Moscaritolo, president of the visitors bureau.

''Every time an international carrier plants their flag here in Boston, it just raises our visibility as a destination," Moscaritolo said. "It adds to the attractiveness of the city because it's now that much easier for visitors from around the globe to get here."

Service to Panama City, Panama, began in July. The flights to Beijing, Dubai, and Istanbul will begin in 2014.

To promote more international routes, Massport recently sent out a survey to local business associations asking what countries their members visit and why, if they have increased travel to places where Logan has added nonstop service, and if they would be willing to participate on a task force.

In all, Logan has 36 international destinations, up from 26 a decade ago; the number of international travelers using Logan during that time has increased about 20 percent. The next overseas flight on airport executives' radar: Tel Aviv, a welcome addition for the more than 200 innovation-related businesses in Massachusetts with Israeli connections.

Other in-demand destinations include Shanghai, Hong Kong, Delhi, Mumbai, Milan, and South America, particularly Brazil, Boston's biggest Latin American destination and trading partner.

All five of the new international routes are on foreign carriers, in part because US airlines tend to operate international flights from their hub cities, said Thomas Glynn, chief executive of Massport. Airlines in growing regions of the world like Asia and South America are also acquiring more aircraft and looking to expand service as their countries grow richer.

But domestic carriers benefit from these international flights. Logan's biggest carrier, JetBlue Airways, is an Emirates partner, for instance. It will launch a flight from Boston to Detroit, which has a large Arab-American population, on March 10, the same day Emirates starts flying from Dubai to Boston.

''It's stimulating the market in myriad ways," said Jon Bryan, a management professor at Bridgewater State University and former longtime employee of US Airways.

In light of the increase, Massport is making several changes at Terminal E, which serves international carriers. A corridor under construction between Terminals E and C will make for a quicker trip across the airport for people connecting to a domestic flight, and new passport-scanning kiosks will speed up the process for arriving passengers.

Logan is poised to set another record this year with a projected 29.6 million passengers moving through the airport, surpassing 2012's 29.3 million. And with air travel around the world expected to rise 30 percent in the next four years, three new foreign routes opening in 2014, and more international destinations on the horizon, Logan is only going to get more crowded.