Soaring easyJet holidays bookings defy ‘too early to book’ message by ministers

Bookings for this summer with easyJet holidays are up 250% on last year, despite tougher lockdown rules and tougher travel restrictions.

May is proving to be the most popular month for holidays, the budget airline’s chief executive revealed.

Johan Lundgren told the BBC it offers confidence for the travel market post-Covid.

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Comment: Vaccination progress gives hope for 2021

“We know that people want to go on holiday as soon as they can,” he said.

The comments by airline boss came ahead of health secretary Matt Hancock saying that people should plan for a “great British summer”, suggesting that holidays abroad may not be a given.

Hancock’s statement came after foreign secretary Dominic Raab indicated on Sunday that it was “too early” to book summer breaks overseas.

Asked during a Downing Street press conference on Monday if people should book a trip abroad, Hancock said: “I’m going to Cornwall. And I have said before I think we’re going to have a great British summer. But we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then.

“What we can do is see the line of sight to vaccinating everybody by September and anything before that would be a bonus.

“As the foreign secretary said yesterday, we’re driving this as fast as we possibly can.”

Pent-up travel demand

However, Lundgren said:  “We know there is pent-up demand – we have seen that every time restrictions have been relaxed, and so we know that people want to go on holiday as soon as they can.

“We have been pleased to see that some customers are making plans for their summer holidays now, with easyJet holidays bookings for summer ‘21 up 250%, compared to the same time last year, and with May currently proving to be the most popular month for holiday bookings at the moment.”

The vaccination programme underway in the UK and Europe was “undoubtedly the key to unlocking travel again”.

The airline was ready to ramp up its flying schedule as soon as customer confidence returned, Lundgren said.

Pre-departure tests were part of this confidence process, but were to some extent “prohibitive”.

With most tests costing at least £75, rising to £150 in some places, it makes flying much more expensive.

“We would like to see the prices comes down,” Lundgren said.

‘Best time’ to book

Meanwhile, Aito deputy chairman Derek Moore said now was “absolutely the best time” to book 2021 holidays.

He told The Telegraph: “Firstly, enjoy the highly flexible booking policies currently available.

“Secondly, deliver vital cash flow and confidence to beleaguered travel companies exactly when needed.

“Thirdly, give yourselves something to really look forward to – and we certainly all need a holiday after the past year.”

New rules for travellers entering the UK came into force on Monday.

Arrivals are required to prove a negative Covid test up to 72 hours before departure and self-isolate for up to 10 days after entering the UK.

Some of the earliest arrivals at Heathrow said it had taken more than an hour to be processed, due to “substantial” lines at passport control.

Lundgren said the loss of travel corridors will not have a “significant impact” on his airline in the short term, as flight numbers were already limited due to the pandemic.

“We know that there’s a big difference between people’s willingness to sacrifice to go and travel if you have to quarantine for 10 days or 14 days, down to five days or even three days,” he added.

“So it’s really, really important that, as part of the plan for recovery, the government also has the plan to unwind these restrictions that are in place.”

Meanwhile, more than half of UK adults (55%) said they would feel comfortable going on holiday again with news of a vaccine as travelling came a top priority for plans in 2021, a poll by travel insurance firm AllClear found.

The resurgence of interest in planning holidays was strongest amongst older people, and was consistently popular across all UK regions – “an early indication that the travel sector could find its feet quicker than has been reported in the news”.

Chef executive Chris Rolland said: “Covid has been an assault on people’s most basic freedom, the freedom to travel, and we expect to see an emphatic holiday boom this summer as the vaccine helps us to turn the tide on this terrible pandemic.”

MoreSkiers still holding out hope for the slopes this winter

Comment: Vaccination progress gives hope for 2021

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