Brits take to skies as COVID-19 travel rules scrapped

Brits take to skies as COVID-19 travel rules scrapped
The CEO of British Airways hopes other countries will follow the UK in loosening travel restrictions. (File/AFP)
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Updated 11 February 2022

Brits take to skies as COVID-19 travel rules scrapped

Brits take to skies as COVID-19 travel rules scrapped
  • Egypt, Dubai among top destinations
  • British Airways urges other countries to follow suit

LONDON: Egypt and Dubai are among the top destinations for hundreds of thousands of holidaying Brits after COVID-19 testing rules were scrapped for fully vaccinated flyers.

 As of 4 a.m. on Friday, Brits no longer need to take a test on their arrival back in the UK. ABTA, formerly known as the Association of British Travel Agents, said the easing of restrictions represents a “new chapter” for the travel industry’s recovery.  It added that among the most popular destinations is Egypt for a shorter flight and Dubai for those willing to fly further.

Stansted Airport told ABTA that it is expecting around 200,000 passengers to depart between Feb. 11 and 18.

Gatwick is expecting so many travelers that it has reopened a terminal that had been shut due to the near-total drop in demand for travel during two years of the pandemic. The airport is expecting around 186,000 travelers during the half-term break.

British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said: “We hope that other countries will soon catch up with the UK’s pragmatic approach.”

Airlines are still hopeful that passenger numbers, particularly in international travel, will pick up as virus-related restrictions have either been completely lifted or are being gradually eased in major economies.

In Britain, demand for flights has been edging back toward pre-COVID levels for the crucial summer holiday season, according to market data that also showed bookings for the period only 16 percent behind comparable levels in January 2019.

Fully vaccinated people will no longer need to take a COVID-19 test when they land in the UK starting from Friday, making trips cheaper and relatively hassle-free.

London’s Gatwick Airport will reopen its south terminal next month, counting on the easing of coronavirus curbs to boost demand this summer as travelers venture out after the omicron variant of the virus dampened new year celebrations for most, Reuters reported.

A number of airlines will return to the south terminal from March 27, said the UK’s second-largest airport, which has kept the terminal shut for nearly two years as passenger numbers plummeted during the health crisis.

Carriers including British Airways, Dublin-based Aer Lingus, Oslo-listed Norwegian Air and low-cost carriers Vueling, Wizz Air and Ryanair will operate from the terminal, while easyJet will operate across south and north terminals.

“We are going to see significant growth at the very beginning of the summer season here at Gatwick, and then progressively we will build to operate at about 90 percent of the 2019 levels,” said Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate.

The pandemic was especially hard on the travel sector as the emergence of a number of new variants has led to recurring curbs, wiping out company earnings and making it difficult for businesses
to plan.

The possibility of new variants and rising living costs that could force people to reassess their budgets still pose a threat to a sustained rebound.