Europe: lower travel barriers & testing costs key to aviation recovery

Premium Analysis

Much of Europe, specifically the EU and UK, is preparing to lower international travel restrictions. Details of which countries will be on the green lists are yet to be provided, and they will probably change over time once announced, but this is welcome.

Schedules filed for the peak summer months show a determined optimism. OAG data, together with CAPA seat configuration data, project Europe capacity at 78% of 2019 levels (i.e. down only 22%) in 3Q2021. This compares with current capacity (week of 3-May-2021) in Europe at 71.9% below 2019.

Europe has fallen further behind other regions on this measure: the next weakest region is Africa, where capacity is down by 51.1% versus 2019, Middle East is down by 49.7%, Latin America by 43.8%, North America by 36.2%, and Asia Pacific by 31.3%.

The relaxation of travel restrictions will be a vital step towards aviation's recovery, although 78% of 2019 levels looks too optimistic, given the uneven vaccination rates and epidemiology. The recovery could also be stalled by very high testing costs for travellers.

Nevertheless, 3Q should show a big improvement from current capacity levels in Europe.

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