August ticket data shows European travel recovery stalling

Europe’s travel recovery stalled earlier this month after a stronger performance in July, with quarantine rules and warnings about rising infection rates creating uncertainty and deterring tourists from booking trips to the stranger.

In July, the number of tickets for cross-border air travel in Europe stood at 28% of 2019 levels, as Europeans resumed travel after months of confinement.

But by the first week of August, volumes were down 18%, according to data provided by travel analytics group ForwardKeys.

Britain brought back quarantine rules for arrivals from Spain on July 26, just over two weeks after it said travel there was safe, and this month added France, Croatia and Austria to the list with less than two days’ notice.

Rising levels of COVID-19 infection in Spain have also prompted Austria, Sweden and Germany to warn against travel to the whole country or its regions, creating uncertainty and dampening airlines’ hopes of a strong recovery.

Europe’s biggest airline by passenger numbers, Ryanair, said on Monday it was already seeing the impact of the new restrictions on bookings and would reduce its flight capacity plans for September and October.

Looking ahead, tickets issued for the fourth quarter for intra-European air travel are down 70% compared to last year, said Olivier Ponti, vice president of ForwardKeys.

Ryanair planes wait on the tarmac at Dublin Airport on March 23. Ryanair will cut its September and October schedule by “20%” due to weaker-than-expected demand following renewed travel restrictions in some European countries, the no-frills airline announced on Monday. | AFP-JIJI

The rapidly changing situation also means people are waiting much later to make plans, researching flights and booking much closer to their expected departure date than they did last year, a- he declared.

UK Transport Minister Grant Shapps warned on Twitter on Thursday: “Only travel if you are content with an unexpected 14-day quarantine if necessary.”

With such warnings, airlines face an uphill battle to fill their planes and get people flying again.

“Consumer confidence has been shattered by waves and waves of cancellations, uncertainties around refunds, rapid changes in travel restrictions from one day to the next, and that is something that is hampering the recovery,” Ponti said.

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