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Air bridges offer hope for UK tour operators but barriers remain, says GlobalData

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Air bridges are offering UK tour operators hope of resuming some form of service this summer, but as overnight domestic travel is still not possible it is clear there that the current situation is as bleak as it has ever been for operators, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

TUI and Jet2holidays are some of the first operators to announce that holidays will resume from 1 July 2020 – this followed an extension of cancellations. It is likely that further cancellations will occur before outbound travel from the UK reaches a ‘new normal’. The UK foreign office ban on all non-essential international travel is still in place and the 14-day quarantine rule looks to become a reality in the short term – factors that will deter immediate travel bookings.

Johanna Bonhill-Smith, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, says: “Three reasons relate to why air bridges are not likely to form any time soon – this includes traveller uncertainty, current stringent lockdown measures and rising cases.

“Firstly, traveller uncertainty remains the most prominent barrier. GlobalData’s latest UK coronavirus survey found that 46% of UK travellers remain extremely concerned about the outbreak of COVID-19 and 39% expect it to get worse over the next month. The ‘fear factor’ of travelling is still present – the prospect of a 14-day quarantine will not help this.

“Secondly, there are still stringent lockdown restrictions across the UK. In England, travel across the county is allowed but overnight travel remains prohibited. This is set to be reviewed in three weeks on 29 June, alongside quarantine restrictions. Contact between households has recently been eased but people still have to maintain up to two metres distance between others. Therefore, the appeal of getting on a plane over the next few weeks may still be low.

“Thirdly, it remains that the UK still has the fourth highest number of COVID-19 cases. The idea of an air bridge is to connect two low risk COVID-19 destinations together – with cases still rising, even though lesser than before, this does not make the UK an attractive partner right now. The UK may face further scrutiny in its handling of COVID-19 if both domestic and international travel restrictions are lifted too soon.”