The airlines, which were forced to reduce their operations to a minimum or even suspend it entirely due to covid-19, are gradually starting to recover their programming, at the rate of the lifting of restrictions and the reopening of borders.
In recent weeks, there has been a trickle of announcements of the restart of flights by companies such as Lufthansa, Air France, Ryanair, easyJet, Condor, Latam, Emirates or the Spanish Volotea, expected by most of them for the second half of June and early July.
However, Eurocontrol expects that, in the first fortnight of June, traffic on the European network – which, since it bottomed out on April 12, with only 2,099 flights, has been increasing slowly – will reach 7,500 operations, with a trend to 8,000.
The president of the Association of Airlines (ALA) and general director of easyJet, Javier Gándara, has indicated to Efe that the return will not be possible before interprovincial and international movements are allowed without restrictions.
In principle, and as announced by the Government on Saturday, in July the Spanish borders will be opened to encourage foreign tourism, while the Spanish are already encouraged to plan their vacations in national territory and that “all tourist establishments, bars and restaurants, beach and inland destinations “get ready to resume their activity” in a few days “.
For the manager, flexibility will be key in reviving air traffic because the number of passengers who had bought tickets before the pandemic is more or less known, but it is unknown if there will be additional demand.
In his opinion, there is still no visibility to know what percentage of the capacity originally planned by the airlines will finally be offered, although some have specified this in their forecasts.
Ryanair will operate from July 1 up to 40% of its usual flight schedule, while the Lufthansa group will offer 1,800 weekly connections to 130 destinations at the end of June, 14% of the 13,000 before the pandemic.
Air France will progressively increase its program to 15% of the usual at the end of June, which will focus on inland destinations, the French overseas territories and Europe, and then adapt its offer again for July.
Alitalia has been ahead of other European companies and will resume operations in early June, with a 36% increase in its offer compared to May (30 routes in 25 airports), to recover 40% of activity in the third quarter, Although Emirates has been even earlier, by resuming commercial flights to destinations in Europe this week, including Spain, the United States, Canada and Australia.
Latam will restart some international operations in Europe and the United States in June, going from 5% to 9% of its pre-pandemic capacity, to reach 18% in July.
Instead, easyJet has only anticipated that it will start a few flights in Europe in the second half of June, almost all nationals in the United Kingdom and France, but it is still preparing the plan for July.
Spain’s Air Europa, which plans to gradually reactivate operations from mid-June or early July, and Iberia, which is working on the general program for the summer, expect to present their plans soon.
During the state of alarm, Iberia has maintained connectivity for force majeure trips with a daily flight to London; three weekly to Paris and Barcelona; two to Bilbao and Galicia; four to Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Mallorca, and one to Asturias, Ibiza, Menorca, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.
The objective of Vueling, which currently operates from Barcelona to Alicante, Bilbao, Seville, Malaga, Granada, Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Gran Canaria and Tenerife, is, at this time, to regain the trust of its customers and is constantly adapting the offer before each new scenario.
THE HORIZON IS CLEARED
Although the horizon has been cleared a bit more for airlines after the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) published a protocol with security measures for all stages of travel, it still needs to be applied by Member States.
The protocol does not require limiting seating on aircraft and only recommends maintaining a safe distance “whenever possible”, which shows that “fortunately” there is already a consensus that “it really is perfectly safe to fly even with all seats full, “said Gándara.
If the measure had been implemented, rather than making tickets more expensive, the offer would be reduced because, with the lack of confidence that there are, perhaps, far fewer flights would be profitable, so “most likely, prices not only do not go up, but, on the contrary, they go down to stimulate demand, “he added.
After Portugal removed, following the recommendations of EASA and the European Commission itself, the limitation to two thirds that it still maintained, Spain is one of the few countries that continues to have a restriction in this regard, although only on inter-island flights, from the fifty %.
The sector expects all countries to follow the European safety recommendations and also to unify their criteria regarding mobility, to avoid restrictions such as the quarantine that the United Kingdom will impose as of June 8 on all who arrive on the island.