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Outbound air travel may take years to recover

With international air departures from the UK dropping by 74.7% year-on-year in 2020, it is little surprise that the full recovery of outbound figures is expected to take until 2024. However, a sustained rebound in overseas trips looks set to start this year.

The start of 2021 remained bleak

The first quarter of 2021 remained bleak for airlines involved with international travel from the UK. Heavy drops in revenue and passenger numbers continued from the previous year as Covid-19 travel restrictions impacted the winter holiday market. 

To make matters more difficult, a new piece of legislation was introduced in January that meant only essential travel from the UK was allowed, effectively banning holidays.

The grim start to 2021 is summed up by easyJet’s Q1 2021 results, with the low-cost leader experiencing a fall in passenger numbers of 87.1% from the 22.19 million that were handled in the same quarter a year earlier.

The worst may be over

According to GlobalData’s latest traveller demands and flows forecast, this downturn will be over by the end of this year. Outbound air travel should start to rebound this year, with international departures from the UK expected to increase at a CAGR of 25.5% from 2021 until full recovery in 2024.

Government ministers are said to be confident they can stick to the outlined dates in Boris Johnson’s lockdown roadmap and flights could resume to as many as 30 countries from 17 May. Travellers to green list countries will not be subject to quarantine upon their return, as long as they test negative. 

Additionally, many aspiring travellers could eventually be owners of Covid passports, adding further security to outbound travel and increasing accessibility.

With vaccine rollout continuing to be successful in the UK, the introduction of Covid passports and the chance of more countries going on the green list as the months go by in 2021, May could be the turning point that airlines operating in the UK have longed for. 

However, with international departures not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2024, airlines will have to be patient and government assistance will need to remain constant.