The coronavirus crisis is still not over. A lot of countries have not opened their borders for tourists yet but some airlines are planning to resume flights soon or have already done so.
Will it really be possible to fly this summer and where? We are all impatiently waiting for the answer.
Let’s see what the deal is.
Air travel will resume this summer. Europe’s major airline groups have announced that they plan to add flights at different paces. The initial projections are subject to travel restrictions and bans being gradually lifted.
British Airways owner IAG plans the largest increase, operating 45% of capacity between July and September.
Overall, airlines are likely to converge and match each other’s capacity, meaning they will operate at the same relative level as competitors. Naturally, airlines will resume short-haul and domestic flights faster than intercontinental travel.
Flights throughout April and May have been cancelled with the exception of repatriation flights, but now some airlines are expecting to resume their flight schedules ahead of the peak July and August season.
Here are the dates some of the major airlines are likely to resume operation:
- Jet2 is planning to restart flights on 17 June but this date will be kept under constant review.
- British Airways is currently running a limited number of flights for essential workers, but has not announced exactly when it expects its full schedule to be available yet.
- Virgin Atlantic has been running a limited schedule for essential flights, as it focuses on delivering emergency personal protective equipment to the NHS. So far it has been suggested that they won’t resume passenger flights before 1 July.
- EasyJet isn’t considering resuming flights until after May and hasn’t yet commented on its flight operations.
- KLM is flying a much-reduced schedule. Its target for May is the resumption of 15% of its flights, compared to the period before the Covid-19 outbreak.
- Wizz Air resumed flights out of Luton Airport on 1 May to selected airports in Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Portugal, Spain and Israel, as well as some flights from Vienna and Budapest.
Wizzair’s flights operate with “enhanced” health and safety measures, and cabin crew is required to wear masks and gloves on all flights. Sanitising wipes will be distributed to passengers, physical distancing measures introduced during boarding, and the aircraft disinfected overnight. The middle seat will be left vacant.
The low-cost airline plans to initially operate 10% of scheduled flights for passengers such as workers with essential journeys.
What’s more, the carrier has plans to offer a large summer route network, with flights set to resume on 16 June to Portugal and in July to Greece.
- Ryanair plans to restore 40% of its flights from 1 July. This means almost 1000 flights per day and nearly all of its route network will be in operation.
There will be new Ryanair flight rules, under which both passengers and crew will have to wear face coverings in the terminal and on planes, and all on-board transactions will be cashless.
Passengers will have to request permission from crew members to go to the toilet in order to avoid any queues. (A bit like back in school.)
Check-in will be done online, and passengers asked to download their boarding pass and to bring fewer bags. There will also be temperature checks done on arrival at the airport.
Ryanair assured us it uses air filters in planes, similar to those used in critical hospital wards, and that all interior surfaces are disinfected every night.
However, the UK government is advising against all but essential travel indefinitely. Such is the current situation in most European countries as the coronavirus pandemic is not over.
Different countries will make their own decision regarding domestic travel, but EU regulations allowing free movement of people between borders will depend on the growth rate of coronavirus cases around the world.
There is currently a 14-day quarantine period rule in a lot of countries, which will certainly impede holiday travelers.
However, Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary suggested that British families could easily self-isolate in their homes after returning from holiday. He added that if there was a quarantine period in their holiday destination too, they could simply stay at their holiday accommodation. (Fun! ... That doesn't seem like the right approach though.)
Moreover, Ryanair will require all passengers flying in July and August to fill in details at the point of check-in of how long their planned visit will be, and their address while visiting another EU country. This contact information will be provided to EU governments to help them monitor any isolation regulations.
Indeed, the current situation is confusing all consumers. Should you book a flight right now or should you wait some more? This is the million-dollar question.
Everyone is itching to travel but there are still some uncertainties and regulations to keep in mind. Airlines are urging us to book with confidence and get on the plane, enticing us with cheap deals, but how can we do that when they are selling tickets to places still in lockdown?
What’s more, not all potential passengers are getting a reply on social media when trying to reach the airlines, and others are still waiting for a refund for cancelled flights.
The other problem is that most of the hotels in lockdown countries are closed so where would you stay even if you manage to get there?
Perhaps airlines are counting on their flights being filled by European travel ban exempt-only passengers such as citizens, residents, and medical staff. No airline has commented to give more clarity yet.
Moreover, now customers might not be eligible for a refund if they cancel a booking.
Different countries and destinations will likely open their borders with various restrictions and on different timescales. There are no fixed dates yet.
However, airlines are resuming flights earlier than expected while a lot of countries are still in lockdown. It seems a bit early for summer tourism to get back to normal but it is now possible to book a flight - at your own risk. Please check what your home country and your potential destination’s regulations are in advance to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Still, the good news is that civil aviation is slowly but surely coming back, and very soon we will be up in the air again! Fingers crossed!