Operators and airlines have added capacity to Turkey amid a surge in bookings for overseas holidays within hours of Friday’s announcement that travel restrictions will be lifted.
Jet2 is restarting flights and holidays to Antalya and Dalaman from Thursday (September 23) – the day after the country is removed from the red list – amid reports of overall bookings spiking by more than 250%.
EasyJet is adding 51,000 seats to beach destinations for October with the top destinations identified as Alicante, Majorca and Faro.
The budget carrier is also deploying extra capacity to Dalaman from Gatwick, Luton, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol airports in addition to flights to Antalya. Fares start at £22.99 one-way.
EasyJet also reported high demand for flights to ski destinations in the new year, with the top destinations being Geneva from Manchester, Luton, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Gatwick.
The airline will offering more than one million seats this winter to destinations including Geneva, Grenoble, Lyon, Salzburg, Turin and Innsbruck.
Tui said on Friday: “Our teams are working through this information and will update our Covid hub on what this means for testing packages and entry requirements in the coming days.”
EasyJet chief commercial director Sophie Dekkers said: “Every time restrictions have been relaxed or removed we have seen pent-up demand and this is no exception.
“We have seen a huge surge in bookings since the move by the government to disband the traffic light system, take away the pre-departure test and remove popular summer sun destinations from the red list.
“With Brits scrambling for last minute summer sun, particularly over the October half-term, we are putting on even more flights to the most popular beach hot spots to serve this added demand.”
EasyJet holidays reported an increase in October half-term bookings to Majorca, Antalya, Tenerife, and Sharm el Sheikh leading the way.
Chief executive Garry Wilson said: “We know there is pent-up demand for holidays and we saw this surge after the government announcement.
“Holidaymakers are feeling more confident to book, with families in particular rushing to book breaks for October half term.
“These changes are really positive news for our industry and customers and we’re looking forward to taking our customers away on their well-deserved holidays.”
Jet2 and Jet2holidays chief executive Steve Heapy said: “We have seen demand step up over the last few days, and there has been an immediate and massive surge in bookings for package holidays on the back of this welcome news for holidaymakers and independent travel agents in England.
“Although it has been a long time coming, we are extremely pleased that the government has finally committed to reopening international travel properly.
“Holidaymakers and independent travel agents will be frustrated that these changes come too late for the peak summer holiday period, but we know how delighted they will be that holidays are no longer subject to a set of restrictions that are completely out of step with other areas of everyday life.
“Having to take a pre-departure test in resort, along with an expensive PCR test after returning to the UK, has unfairly penalised hardworking customers and families for far too long. Although the removal of these burdens is welcome news and a step in the right direction, more can still be done.
“The traffic light system has been confusing and completely unfit for purpose since day one. We welcome a new approach which is easy for everyone to understand and provides certainty.
“The desire to get away for a well-earned holiday in the sunshine has never diminished, however harsh and unfair restrictions have remained a barrier for some.
“Now many of these restrictions have been removed, the rush in bookings for package holidays to sun and leisure city destinations tells us just how much holidaymakers have been longing to get away.”
The comments came as holiday price comparison site TravelSupermarket reported a 1,000% rise in searches for Turkey amid a fall in holiday prices over the weekend.
Spokeswoman Emma Coulthurst said: “Our partners – the likes of Tui and Jet2 – are saying that bookings are pouring in since the holiday drawbridge has come down and a simpler way forward has been announced.
“There is a strong interest in booking in general and particularly for dates which return from 4 October when the pre-departure lateral flow test is no longer required and for when the PCR test has been replaced by.
“Now that the cost of the city break is less than the cost of the tests, city breaks will also be popular alongside beach breaks.”
Wizz Air UK managing director Marion Geoffroy said: “The decision to simplify the traffic light system and scrap expensive pre-departure testing is fantastic and welcome news for our industry and for passengers.
“We have continued to offer low-fare connections throughout the pandemic and have quickly ramped up operations throughout the summer to provide our customers with more choices for their well-deserved holiday.
“As travel now becomes more accessible and affordable, we encourage customers to book now, whether it’s a last-minute September getaway, family holiday during October half term or winter sun escape in November.”