As quarantine rules are relaxed for travellers from dozens of countries arriving in the UK, the airline industry faces a grim few months ahead.
The relaxing of lockdown measures around the globe may have seen an initial “explosion” in holiday bookings, but airlines are expecting cautious travellers to opt to stay home for the summer instead, dampening hopes of reviving the usual busy holiday season due to fears of a second wave of coronavirus.
Today, the UK government eased restrictions which had previously required everyone arriving in the UK from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.
After mounting criticism and a legal review launched by leading airliners easyJet (LON: EZJ), British Airways (LON:IAG) and Ryanair (LON:RYA), it was announced last month that quarantine rules would be relaxed for a select number of countries deemed to be at “low-risk” of spreading the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, even as the UK and Europe begin to build the long-awaited “air bridge” between destinations, the US is battling a sharp rise in virus cases that threatens to pour cold water over the whole ordeal, and send travellers rushing back to safety of their homes.
A number of major airline companies have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic. Big names such as United Airlines (NASDAQ:UAL) and British Airways were forced to lay off thousands of employees, with their planes grounded due to globally-enforced lockdown restrictions and a free-fall in travel demand.
The near-paralysis of the airline industry helped drive oil down to its lowest recorded price since 1982 – a mere $11.01 – at the peak of the pandemic in April.
Commenting on today’s progress, IG Senior Market Analyst Joshua Mahony stated:
“Airlines are on the slide in early trade today, as the first day of quarantine exemptions did little to boost sentiment after a dismal June.
“While May saw Heathrow passengers down by almost 97%, the recent step to reduce hurdles for those seeking to travel abroad will hopefully provide some precious income for airlines at one of the most testing periods in history for the industry.
“Nevertheless, with fears of localised lockdowns around the globe, there is a good chance that it will take many months and even years to see air travel return to pre-Covid levels”.