British Airways is considering using some of its biggest planes to add capacity for an anticipated post-pandemic holiday rush to popular European summer vacation destinations that would normally be serviced by smaller single-aisle jets according to sources quoted by Bloomberg who are said to be familiar with the matter.
Greece is already making plans to allow fully vaccinated holidaymakers, as well as visitors who can provide proof of a recent negative test or antibodies against COVID-19, to start coming to the country from May 14 – even from countries hit hard by the pandemic such as the United Kingdom and the USA.
Other countries across the continent are also expected to break away from official European policy by opening up their ravaged tourism-focused economies to holidaymakers within the next few months. Spain, Cyprus and even France have all been encouraged by the rapid rollout of Coronavirus vaccines in the UK and United States.
But with Brits banned from embarking on any non-essential international travel until May 17 at the very earliest, airlines and holiday companies are expecting a huge surge in bookings once travel restrictions have been lifted. That could put pressure on capacity on routes that are normally serviced by smaller single-aisle jets.
In a statement, British Airways said it was keeping its fleet plans under constant review, while sources said no firm decision would be made until the easing of lockdown restrictions had been finalised. The British government has set up a travel task force, working with airlines and holiday companies, to decide a safe way to reopen international leisure travel.
Spooked by the threat of vaccine-resistant virus variants, all arrivals entering England must currently isolate for 10-days, while visitors from 33 so-called ‘Red List’ countries must quarantine in government-approved hotels. All arrivals must also pay for at least two post-arrival COVID-19 tests, as well as a pre-departure test.
Travel demand will depend on whether some of those onerous requirements are lifted in time for the summer, along with the continued rapid rollout of vaccines.
And while British Airways has plenty of larger widebody planes sitting idle, they might not actually add enough additional capacity to justify the expense. BA operates ‘densified’ single-aisle Airbus A321 aircraft capable of carrying 190 passengers in Economy.
The logistics of using larger aircraft in some popular holiday destination with limited airport facilities may also make the idea a non-starter.
Airlines are, however, increasingly optimistic of a summer revival with Ryanair announcing on Thursday that it was adding three new routes and extra flights between the UK and Greece. The German low-cost airline Eurowings is also hoping to tap into the UK market with the launch of direct flights from regional British airports to Spain in time for the summer.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.