As the UK begins slowly unwinding its lockdown measures, British travelers are keen to get away when they can. New research by aviation analytics firm Cirium has shown that nine in ten Brits want to fly again soon, with more than half planning a trip within the next 12 months.
Post-lockdown Brits are ready to fly again
With lockdown in the UK easing this week, and a roadmap to further loosening in place, many airlines are beginning to ramp up capacity in the hope of a busier summer season. But with all the disruption endured over the past 12 months, will people be willing to fly at all?
Aviation analytics company Cirium has recently undertaken a survey of more than 2,000 UK adults to find out what they think. The results are overwhelmingly positive, showing that the perceived pent-up demand to travel this year is stronger than ever.
The headline figure will make comforting reading to those airlines investing in a robust operation this year. 90% of Brits are fully intending to fly again soon, and more than half are already planning trips within the next 12 months. Jeremy Bowen, Cirium CEO, commented on the findings, saying,
“The survey shows that people’s desire to travel remains incredibly resilient and pent-up demand bodes well for travel recommencing. It also helps clarify where the initial demand is likely to be, for example leisure travel from the UK to European destinations.
“This insight may help focus efforts to get UK travel up and running again. For example, providing reassurance for those travellers who are concerned with the extra measures in place for travelling to EU destinations in a post-Brexit world.”
In terms of booking, airlines are still going to be dealing with a volatile booking window, or so it seems. Since the onset of the pandemic, pre-booking trends have changed significantly, with far fewer people prepared to book in any sort of advanced timeframe. Cirium’s research reflects this, with a third saying they will leave it until a month or less before departure to book.
On the upside, 66% said they would book with a window of between one and three months. That suggests that many are waiting for the official lifting of travel restrictions, at which point they’ll start booking for later in the year. The research shows that, in general, younger people will leave it later to make their booking.
Where are they going?
Of the trips being planned by respondents, 60% were heading to European destinations, showing a preference for short-haul travel at this time. That will come as great news for the airlines looking to snag European holiday traffic.
This summer, a record one million seats are planned between Heathrow and Greece, giving UK sun-seekers every opportunity to get away to the islands. TUI UK is even laying on widebodies on some of its leisure routes. Let’s hope the government’s restrictions play ball and let Brits get the vacation they so clearly want.
Long-haul travel is less optimistic, with only 11% saying they would feel comfortable flying to China or India and just 13% confident about visiting South Africa. For those nations where COVID has been handled exceptionally well, the response was more positive. For example, Australia was a destination that 52% of Brits said they would be happy to visit; whether Australia would let them is another matter.
Brexit doesn’t put people off
The UK population is not only dealing with the fallout from COVID. As if mask requirements and uncertain border restrictions weren’t enough, they are also yet to fully embrace the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU.
Brexit skeptics have warned that travelers could endure red tape and huge queues at the borders, but with barely anyone traveling since the UK’s exit, so far, these worries have gone unfounded.
Nevertheless, British travelers keen to get away remain undeterred, with more than half (65%) telling Cirium’s survey that they weren’t worried about Brexit.
Overall, 81% of those planning to travel soon would do so for leisure purposes. As has been predicted throughout COVID, it looks like the leisure market is going to be what carries the airlines through in the short term, with business taking some time to bounce back.