Public confidence in what was looking to be a recovery in the European travel industry by the all-too-important summer travel season has fallen, as new waves of infection see airline shares plummet.
Shares in European airlines fell across the board on Monday, following announcements from the UK government that continued to advise against summer travel, as other nations in Europe brace for new restrictions.
Airline multinational IAG saw its shares drop by 8 per cent, while easyJet dropped 5 per cent, and budget carrier Rynair’s fell by 3 per cent.
UK Social Care Minister Helen Whately advised Britons on Monday to “just hold off” on booking summer holidays to sunnier European destinations, in light of new COVID variants taking hold throughout the continent.
The UK had previously touted that restrictions on overseas travel could be lifted as soon as 17 May, prior to the busy summer season beginning in June.
However, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said this week that it is still “too early to tell”, when the government will allow leisure travel abroad.
Europe has been notably slower than others, including the US and UK, in its rollout of the vaccine, and is now experiencing a ‘third wave’ of infections that has sent parts of France and Italy into another lockdown.
As such, Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, said over the weekend that “international travel this summer is, for the average holidaymaker, sadly I think, extremely unlikely”.
Dr Tildesley stated that, while the UK vaccination campaign is running smoothly, the spread of new variants in Europe could jeopardise the rollout in the UK, if holidaymakers return to Britain with these new, stronger strains of COVID.
“I think we are running a real risk if we do start to have lots of people going overseas in July, for instance, and August because of the potential for bringing more of these new variants back into the country,” he said.
“What is really dangerous is if we jeopardise our vaccination campaign by having these variants, where the vaccines don’t work as effectively, spreading more rapidly.”
Meanwhile, Mark Wallace, an airlines analyst, said, “Paris’ lockdown, Italy’s national restrictions and rising concern in Germany over infection rates . . . are being reflected in growing fears that a second summer of travel will be lost.”
Carriers in Europe, as well as around the world, have recently been reporting a surge in future bookings as the vaccine rollout continues globally.
While confidence appears to have wavered in the European market, the US domestic market continues to see significant improvement.
The US has seen almost two weeks straight where passenger thoroughfare through airport checkpoints has been over 1 million people per day.
In fact, 1.5 million people passed through TSA checkpoints on Sunday, the highest figure seen since March 2020, before the US encouraged restricted movement and ‘stay at home’ guidelines during the emerging COVID crisis.