Flight bookings hit the heights as PM sets out UK's roadmap out of lockdown
- Credit: Tony Pick
The battered East Anglian air travel industry is hoping for a massive summer lift-off as holidaymakers book flights in their droves as coronavirus restrictions ease.
Stansted airport carrier Jet2 said it saw a dramatic rise in bookings immediately after prime minister Boris Johnson announced an exit roadmap from lockdown on Monday, February 22.
Its summer 2021 bookings soared by 600% after the PM's statement. There was a notable increase from July, continuing through the rest of the school holidays to destinations including mainland Spain and Spanish Islands, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.
But international travel won't be on the cards for the UK until at least May 17 when a suspension on travel is due to be lifted - assuming coronavirus cases fall at the rate expected.
Stansted is hoping that the PM's announcement will give the industry a much-needed boost. "We hear from many people that they really want to travel as soon as they are allowed to safely do so – we saw for a brief period last summer the pent up demand and how quickly passengers took to the skies," a spokesman said.
Charlie Cornish, boss at Stansted owners Manchester Airports Group said the tourism and travel industry had been hardest hit by the pandemic, with tens of thousands of jobs already lost and thousands more depending on a recovery in the sector.
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The airport has strongly welcomed the government's plan for lifting restrictions saying it had given many people "real hope" for the summer ahead.
"The Global Travel Taskforce now has a vital job to do over the coming weeks to create a clear and deliverable plan for overseas travel ahead of the publication deadline of April 12 so that people can start planning for the summer at the earliest opportunity," he said.
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"Despite this hugely important step in the right direction, we must not lose sight of the fact aviation will be one of the last sectors to reopen and our recovery from the biggest crisis we have ever faced will not happen overnight.
"Airports have suffered huge losses over the last year to stay open for emergencies, essential journeys and critical freight such as medical supplies and PPE."
The March 3 Budget would be "critical" in driving the recovery, he said, as he called for the same support already on offer to other sectors to enable airports to recover.
Jet2 said it has already refunded more than £1bn to customers whose travel plans have been disrupted by the pandemic but its customers were still keen to jet off.
Chief executive Steve Heapy said: “We have seen enormous pent-up demand from British holidaymakers for some time, with people wanting nothing more than to get away to the sunshine and enjoy their well-deserved holidays.
"The government’s announcement is the news they have been longing for, and the surge in bookings shows how ready our customers are to get away to the sunshine on a real package holiday.
“We are very pleased that the government has shown a clear ambition to reopen international travel in the coming months, and we look forward to more detail in due course.
"Throughout the pandemic, we have done absolutely everything to look after our valued customers and we have always said that the sun will shine for them once again. We know what an incredibly difficult time it has been for everyone, and we very much look forward to taking everyone from our rainy islands to their dream holiday choice this summer and beyond.”