Airports Report Busiest Weekend Since Start of Pandemic – But Travel Industry Still Far Less Busy Than Normal

Airports and airlines say they are having the busiest weekend since the start of the pandemic, but continued restrictions on travel mean this summer season will once again be far from normal for the industry. Firms believe that the Government’s unpredictable approach to travel – best demonstrated when it threw Portugal on the “Amber List” with very little notice, ruining the holiday plans of thousands of Brits – has damaged confidence. BBC News has the story.

Heathrow Airport expects 60,000 passengers to depart daily, while Gatwick says it expects 250 flights a day – up from a low of just 15.

But the numbers are still far below pre-pandemic levels.

Spain is the top destination for U.K. travellers, followed by Greece.

After 18 months in which the travel industry has been devastated by the pandemic, companies including Easyjet, TUI and Jet2, as well as major airports, said they would have more passengers this weekend than at any time since the pandemic began.

Air travel companies said the decision to allow fully vaccinated travellers to visit amber list countries without quarantining on their return had encouraged people to consider more destinations.

Manchester Airport said it was “an encouraging but tentative step towards recovery”, but it said the Government’s “chaotic and unpredictable” approach to international travel had damaged confidence.

Easyjet suggested the vaccination programme had given the travel industry a boost, with many Britons saying they were much more likely to be willing to travel once they had been double-vaccinated and that travel had been a major motivation for getting jabbed for many of them.

At Gatwick on Friday, several passengers said they were travelling for the first time since the pandemic began.

Many were heading on beach holidays, while others were visiting family for the first time in many months. …

Laura, on her way to the 70th birthday party of a friend in Northern Ireland, said: “It’s just so exciting to get on an aeroplane again.”

But she said it was sad to see the airports still with several empty car parks and closed terminals.

Worth reading in full.

U.K. Airport Passenger Numbers Drop 75% In 2020

The number of passengers travelling through U.K. airports fell by 223 million in 2020 because of travel restrictions, a decline of 75% from 2019. The Guardian has the story.

About 74 million people passed through U.K. airports in 2020, less than a quarter of the 297 million recorded in 2019, according to PA Media’s analysis of annual Civil Aviation Authority data.

The Airport Operators Association (AOA) said the figures demonstrated the devastating impact of the virus on aviation.

Cardiff airport suffered the largest drop in passenger numbers at 86.7%, followed by Glasgow Prestwick at 85.8% and Exeter at 85.5%.

The figure for Southampton fell by 83.4%, London City by 82.3% and Leeds Bradford by 81.2%.

Heathrow, the U.K.’s largest airport, recorded a 72.7% decline from 80.9 million passengers in 2019 to 22.1 million last year. The figures include all passengers who travelled through British airports excluding the Channel Islands or Isle of Man.

Demand for air travel collapsed in March 2020 when the U.K. went into its first national lockdown, mirroring lockdowns elsewhere and forcing airlines around the world to ground their planes.

Travel began to recover by late summer and into the autumn, but passenger numbers plummeted again in November after many restrictions were reimposed in the U.K. as it faced a second wave of the virus.

Karen Dee, the AOA’s Chief Executive, said: “These figures lay bare the devastating impact Covid has had on U.K. airports. With passengers down nearly 90% between April and December 2020, airports’ economic output was decimated and significant numbers of jobs were lost.”

She said the Government’s “overly cautious” approach to reopening travel meant this summer would be “as bad, if not worse, than 2020”. U.K. airports will lose at least another £2.6 billion in revenues this summer, following a similar loss between April and September 2020, the AOA estimates.

Dee said: “This leaves U.K. airports trailing behind international competitors in the E.U. and U.S., who not only received significantly more financial support from their governments but are also now able to restart travel over the summer.”

Worth reading in full.