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UK airline bookings surge to 40% above 2019 levels

Flight bookings in UK rocketed to 40% above 2019 levels in the space of just six weeks, after travel restrictions were eased earlier this year, according to research from the Mastercard Economics Institute.

It said that the scrapping of curbs on arrivals into the UK meant that bookings soared from 59% below 2019 levels to 40% above – during a period from mid-March to the end of April.

The figures are included in the institute’s report called Travel 2022: Trends and Transitions which looks at 37 markets around the world.

According to the Mastercard Economics Institute analysis, if flight booking trends continue at their current pace, an estimated 550 million more passengers in Europe – and 1.5 billion globally – will fly in 2022 compared to last year.

The report analyses publicly available travel data, as well as aggregated and anonymised sales activity in the Mastercard network.

It identifies trends such as a preference for travellers to buy experiences instead of souvenirs and a recovery in business travel flights.

By the end of April, leisure flight bookings globally surpassed 2019 levels by 25%.

Business flight bookings globally exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time in March.

Global spending on cruises rose 62 percentage points from January to the end of April, though it remains below 2019 levels.

Natalia Lechmanova, Europe and Middle East Africa senior economist at Mastercard, said: “Consumers’ pent-up desire to experience one of the greatest joys of pre-pandemic life – travel – appears to be overpowering lingering concerns about rising inflation, the virus or geopolitical instability.

“The resilience of the consumer and the desire to return to ‘normal’ and make up for lost time gives us optimism that the recovery will continue, even if there are bumps along the way.”

The rising cost of energy, food, goods and services will dampen people’s purchasing power, especially for discretionary purchases such as travel, added the report.

“This dynamic is likely to persist for the remainder of 2022 for most markets. For example, in the UK and US, inflation is expected to remain three percentage points higher than incomes until Q4 2022,” according to the Mastercard Economics Institute.

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