You Can Now Fly Directly to This Under-the-Radar European Coastal Escape

The new route—which will be the first ever from the United States—takes off in late spring 2024 and is available to book now.

A small sandy beach alcove situated among rocky cliffs in Lagos, Portugal

Swimsuit shopping starts now, thanks to United.

Cassia Tofano/Unsplash

The southern Algarve region of Portugal has some of the warmest weather in the country and a dramatic coastline dotted by golden-hued craggy cliffs, patches of pristine sandy beaches, and quaint, cobblestone towns. While this idyllic Atlantic retreat is no secret among Europeans, it still flies relatively under the radar for visitors coming from farther afield.

That’s in part due to the fact that’s it not necessarily very easy for transatlantic travelers to get there. The Algarve is located a couple hours south of Lisbon by car, so getting there from the United States typically requires a considerable amount of time and usually some combination of planes, trains, and automobiles. But starting next spring, it will be much easier to travel to this Portuguese region from the United States.

On May 24, United Airlines will begin flying the first and only direct flight between the U.S. and Faro, Portugal—the main air travel hub for the Algarve. United will operate the new route four times a week on Boeing 757-200 aircraft, between Newark, New Jersey and Faro. The new nonstop flight will build on United’s existing year-round service between Newark and Lisbon, and seasonal service between Washington Dulles and Lisbon, Newark and Porto, and Newark and Ponta Delgada in the Azores.

A view of some older buildings and a red motorcycle on the street in Faro, Portugal

The Algarve is more than just a string of pretty beaches; cities like the centrally located Faro will charm visitors, too.

Kobu Agency/Unsplash

About United’s new Faro, Portugal flight

United flight UA 281 will depart Newark International Airport (EWR) at 9:50 p.m. (local time) and arrive at Faro International Airport (FAO) approximately 7 hours, 10 minutes later at 10 a.m. (local time) the following morning. United flight UA 282 will depart FAO at 11:45 a.m. (local time) and will arrive at EWR at 3:05 p.m. (local time) the same day after 8 hours, 20 minutes of flying time.

Flight UA 281 from Newark, will depart on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Flight UA 282 will depart from Faro on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

United’s Boeing 757-200 features 16 United Polaris business seats (now with upgraded amenities), either 42 or 45 Economy Plus seats (depending on the plane), and between 108 and 118 seats in economy class (also depending on the aircraft). There is seatback entertainment and WiFi available onboard for all passengers.

United’s brand-new Faro flights are available to book now (note to travelers: since the flights only depart four times per week, make sure your travel dates correspond with the departure days listed above for the nonstop flights—otherwise you’ll be served up flights with one or two stopovers).

The rocky seaside cliffs of Lagos, Portugal

The beauty of the Algarve lies in its heart-stopping seascapes.

Claudio Schwartz/Unsplash

Why fly to Portugal’s Algarve region

From the striking rock formations jutting out of the waters off the coast of Lagos on the western end of the Algarve region (and the not-to-be-missed nearby Benagil Cave), to the cobblestone streets of Tavira on the eastern end, this coastal region is as much an attraction for surfers and sun-seekers as it is an escape for culture vultures looking to get away from the big-city crowds. They can do just that in smaller southern Portuguese cities like Faro and Lagos that exude charm but with fewer crowds.

Where to stay

Travelers to the Algarve won’t be lacking in utterly chic accommodations, whether bunking up at intimate properties like the Casa Céu in the fishing town of Olhão, or Aldeia da Pedralva in the tiny Vila do Bispo on the far western end of Algarve where you can rent out a restored historic home. You can get even further off the beaten path with a stay at Pensaõ Agrícola in the agricultural region of Barrocal, where you and a small handful of guests can enjoy a dip in the private plunge pool in near solitude (and if you’re craving the beach, you can order a tuk-tuk to transport you to the ocean). At the sunny and cheerful Casa Mãe in Lagos, guests can pick from airy cabanas, or a room in either the 19th-century estate house or more contemporary hotel building with city views.

A casita room at Casa Mãe in Lagos

Book into a casita at Casa Mãe in Lagos.

Courtesy of Casa Mãe

Beyond Portugal—United expands Europe service

While Faro, Portugal, will be United’s only entirely new European destination for summer 2024, the carrier will be giving a bit more love to some of the Europe cities on its existing transatlantic roster.

The airline will be increasing service to these destinations next year:

  • On May 23, United will resume its seasonal service between Newark and Reykjavík, Iceland with daily flights
  • On March 30, United will add a second daily flight between Newark and Brussels
  • On March 23, United will add a second daily flight between Washington, D.C. and Rome
  • On May 2, United will increase its Newark-Málaga frequency to daily flights

And in an effort to tap into a growing demand for shoulder season travel, United announced that it will also be kicking off some of its seasonal Europe routes much earlier in 2024, compared to previous years. Here’s the updated schedule:

  • Starting February 15, Washington, D.C. to Lisbon
  • Starting February 15, Washington, D.C. to Barcelona
  • Starting February 15, Washington, D.C. to Rome
  • Starting March 30, Newark to Nice, France
  • Starting March 30, Chicago to Rome
  • Starting March 30, Chicago to Milan
  • Starting April 5, Newark to Naples, Italy
  • Starting May 2, Newark to Málaga, Spain
  • Starting May 2, San Francisco to Rome
Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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