UK-based airlines and tour operators are reporting a surge in flight and holiday bookings in the wake of the government’s announcement of travel restrictions rule changes last week. From October 4th, one of the testing requirements will be removed, and from the end of that month, the day two PCR test will also be scrapped. Bookings for last-minute summer sun and winter ski holidays are among the most popular.
Surge in bookings
Following the announcement that the UK plans to simplify the rules for traveling aboard, British airlines have seen a welcome surge in bookings. From families looking to get some last-minute summer sunshine to those opting for a winter ski break, the pent-up demand that so many predicted is starting to come to fruition.
Major UK low-cost airline easyJet said this morning that bookings surged within hours of the announcement. The airline noted that Alicante, Majorca, and Tenerife in Spain and Faro in Portugal are proving to be the most popular destinations for travel in October, and that easyJet would add an additional 51,000 seats to beach destinations as a result.
Turkey is no longer on the red list, meaning travel is much easier to and from the country. As such, the airline has added additional capacity to the popular Dalman resort, as well as to Antalya.
Ski resorts are proving a popular getaway for the winter season for those booking a bit further out. easyJet notes that Geneva is the top destination so far, with other destinations including Grenoble, Lyon, Salzburg, Turin and Innsbruck also seeing strong bookings. Sophie Dekkers, Chief Commercial Officer for easyJet, commented,
“Every time restrictions have been relaxed or removed we have seen pent up demand and this is no exception. We have seen a huge surge in bookings since the move by the government to disband the traffic light system, take away the pre-departure test and remove popular summer sun destinations from the Red list.”
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From October 4th, those who are fully vaccinated will not have to undertake the ‘fit to fly’ pre-departure test. The requirement to take a day two PCR test will also be removed for the double jabbed from late October. And the traffic light system is being scrapped in favor of a ‘clear’ or ‘red’ two-tier system.
As well as the fundamental changes to the rules coming in the next few weeks, the government pulled eight destinations off the red list. This included Turkey, as mentioned, as well as Egypt, the Maldives and Pakistan.
Turkey, in particular, is seen as a major win for the tourism industry. Jet2.com and Jet2holidays plan to restart their operations to Turkey from this Thursday (September 23rd). Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2holidays, said,
“We have seen demand step up over the last few days, and there has been an immediate and massive surge in bookings for package holidays on the back of this welcome news for holidaymakers and independent travel agents in England.
“Having to take a pre-departure test in resort, along with an expensive PCR test after returning to the UK, has unfairly penalised hardworking customers and families for far too long.
“The desire to get away for a well-earned holiday in the sunshine has never diminished … the rush in bookings for package holidays to sun and leisure city destinations tells us just how much holidaymakers have been longing to get away.”
TUI has also noted a significant uptick in demand for Turkey, alongside other winter sun destinations. TUI UK managing director Andrew Flintham noted,
“We believe these changes will provide much-needed reassurance for customers looking to book ahead, especially as it removes some of the layers of complexity and expense UK holidaymakers have faced this summer.”
Not everyone is happy
Although the reforms of the travel restrictions are a welcome move for most UK airlines, there still remain significant barriers in some important markets. For one UK airline in particular, the lack of an open corridor between the UK and the US is casting a shadow over its prospects for the remains of 2021.
Virgin Atlantic has largely built its business around the transatlantic market, although it does operate to a handful of other destinations too. Its CEO, Shai Weiss, while welcoming the simplification of travel rules, continued to push for more to be done to reopen the important US-UK link, saying,
“We urge the UK Government to use the Prime Minister’s upcoming visit to the USA to work with the Biden administration to remove transatlantic restrictions for UK citizens, just as the UK has done for US travellers, helping loved ones to reunite safely and businesses to restore ties with our largest trading partner.
“The US already allows entry for travellers from Dubai, Turkey and much of South America for example. With the high rate of vaccination in the UK – 81% of UK adults have received both jabs – there is no reason to deny UK citizens from entering the US safely, and no reason to delay.”
It seems that the United States will remain the final frontier for travel restrictions easing. With no sign that the corridor will open up before the end of the year, major airlines on both sides of the pond continue to see their profits eaten away.