ACL’s data analyst, Chris Butler, assesses the impact quarantine measures have had on summer holiday flying.
The impact of COVID-19 on the aviation industry has been significant and widespread, with air transport movements (ATMs) in April falling by 94% versus last year across ACL’s UK airports. Recovery in the UK aviation sector has been slow and sporadic, impacted substantially by further travel restrictions and quarantine announcements for travellers returning to the UK.
Following the easing of lockdown measures, recovery in air travel accelerated from -89% to -62% versus last year from June to August, reaching a peak of over 3,200 daily movements compared to 369 movements on 11 April. Quarantine measures have come to the forefront of discussions in UK aviation due to the immediate impact on travel and the longer-term impact on consumer confidence. Quarantine announcements have significantly affected growth at typical holiday destinations for Summer 2020 with Spain, France, Portugal and Greece all impacted by changes to government policy.
Travellers arriving into the UK from Spain were the first to feel the impact of a change to the quarantine rules, with Spain removed from the ‘exempt list’ on 27 July. This effectively ended the growth in flights seen throughout July, with daily movements peaking at 627 on 1 August, 52% of the volume seen last summer. Slots for flights to and from Spain have declined steadily with quarantine measures in place, with decline versus last summer falling from -55% to -64% in August.
Flights to and from France have been similarly affected, with significant growth in volume following the removal of the requirement for arrivals to quarantine from 10 July. Daily movements reached a peak of 218 on 14 August, over half of the level seen last summer. Quarantine requirements were re-introduced from 15 August however, causing this growth to cease; decline has fallen back to -60% versus last year at the end of August.
In contrast, as Portugal was not included on the initial government exemption list, flights to and from Portugal saw a more modest growth in July. Growth began in August instead, with Portugal added to the UK’s exemption list on 22 August. This, along with quarantine measures imposed for other European holiday destinations, has contributed to a 30% increase in flights in the last two weeks of August, with decline now only -40% versus last year. Any further growth into September is likely to be restricted with Portugal removed from the exempt list from 12 September.
Similarly, the number of flights to and from Greece remained near zero from March until quarantine measures were lifted from 10 July. Rapid growth has been seen since this point, with flights reaching an average of nearly 200 flights a day by the end of August, representing 72% of the volume seen last summer. Further growth in September will likely be constrained by both seasonality of demand and the impact of the UK’s new targeted approach to setting quarantine rules, with seven Greek islands now on the quarantine list.
The chart above shows the wider increase in flying throughout July, but highlights the divergence of growth in flights to countries without quarantine restrictions (Portugal, Greece) from those with restrictions in place (Spain, France), suggesting the substantial impact of country-specific restrictions on flight volume.
This data indicates the continued uncertainty around the remaining Summer 2020 schedule, as well as the sensitivity of UK aviation to the travel corridor changes. Flying volumes are likely to remain volatile throughout September and into the Winter season, affected substantially by continued quarantine restrictions and the announcement of a waiver for use-it-or-lose-it rules throughout the Winter 2020 season. ACL’s schedule data resources will allow us to continue to analyse the impact of further quarantine measures as and when they are announced.