The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that the number of passengers on flights leaving and entering the UK in the third quarter of 2021 declined 72 per cent compared with the same period in 2019.
According to CAA figures, 24.8 million passengers flew in and out of UK airspace between July and September, across 286,842 flights, significantly below 2019 figures of approximately 88.6 million passengers for the same period. UK air passenger numbers collapsed during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the figures represent a 300-per-cent rise in passenger numbers compared with only 6.4 million passengers, across just 126,138 flights, reported in the second quarter (April-June) of 2021.
Average flight delays were eight minutes per flight in Q3 2021, rising from an average of just six minutes in the second quarter, as capacity begins to reduce again as flight numbers recover. However, delay times remain below 2019 levels.
Easing international travel restrictions led to a rise in passenger numbers
The rise in passenger numbers during the third quarter compared with Q2 reflects an easing of Covid-related travel restrictions by the UK government over the summer. CAA says that the alleviation of travel restrictions ‘led to an immediate rise in passenger travel during the final few weeks of the peak summer period.’
In July, it was announced that fully vaccinated UK citizens would no longer have to self-isolate for 10 days upon return from ‘amber list’ countries – countries where coronavirus rates were not deemed sufficiently high enough to justify an outright travel ban by the government, but which were still deemed to pose a moderate risk of coronavirus infection for travellers visiting them.
The CAA also forecasts further recovery in the number of flights and passengers in the final quarter of this year, due to further relaxation of international travel restrictions in the UK and the reopening of international leisure travel.
This includes the UK government’s adoption of a simplified system of travel rules on 4 October which included the outright scrapping of its amber list of countries. UK travel agency Butter had previously reported that the government’s traffic light system was regarded as confusing by UK holidaymakers in May 2021.
However, as Covid cases rise in mainland Europe, countries such as Austria, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Ireland have begun to reimplement lockdown measures, which could pose a challenge for travellers between the UK and its nearest neighbours.