UK outbound travel has resumed more as “a trickle” than a flood despite industry relief at the restart.
Quarantine restrictions and Foreign Office advice against travel were lifted to major European holiday destinations from July 10.
Alan Bowen, advisor to the Association of Atol companies, said: “It’s great to see people travelling. There is an opening, but it’s relatively small. The question is what happens two months down the line. We need to see some movement and see what people say when they come back. Did they enjoy it?”
Bowen added: “The Caribbean is opening – that is positive. [But] if you specialise to the US it’s impossible. You’re not going to see any departures this year.”
A senior leisure industry source said: “It’s very limited, but there is limited capacity in the next two weeks. We knew most people won’t want to be in the first wave [and] we needed to make a start so people get the experience and tell people they had a good time.
“We’ll see it ramping up. We still have the school holidays. It’s not like turning on a tap. It will build.”
An aviation source said: “Passengers are returning, but in nowhere near large numbers. It’s a trickle of a return, although people do expect it to pick up as airlines advertise offers.”
Ryanair chief executive Eddie Wilson told Travel Weekly: “Ryanair has 40% of its network scheduled to operate this month and 60% in August, [and] we’re at close to 70% capacity for July.
“People say flights are a lot calmer. It seems to be a pleasant experience. People are sitting in their seats.”
Wilson said crews describe disembarking as “more orderly” and added: “We’re encouraging people not to queue at boarding. Staff are enforcing the health regulations and people are complying.”
However, a survey this week by pollster YouGov suggested only a minority of prospective travellers would consider flying this summer.
It found just 20% of UK adults “would feel safe” flying – two-thirds (64%) “would not”.
Bowen warned: “The industry can’t survive without new bookings. We may see bookings come in for September and October, but we’re not going to get back the four months lost. We won’t get beyond 25% of business this year.”
He suggested the government requirement to wear face masks when shopping could have a negative impact on demand, saying: “It isn’t comfortable and you may have to wear a mask for six hours [for a flight].”
Tui UK chief executive Andrew Flintham reported sharp differences in customer confidence. He said: “There are customers who have been waiting for the second they can book and those [for whom] travelling is not something they want to do. Between those two you have a load of people. We want customers to make the decision that is right for them.”