If you're looking for flickers of hope, new data suggests that budget airlines are seeing better-than-expected rebounds in Europe. But routes serving some countries, like beleaguered Spain, remain weaker than others.
Europe has experienced a choppy tourism recovery, and Skift has been tracking the mixed signals. Fresh data underscores how the recovery in flight search has been uneven during these crucial high-season weeks. The figures suggest a modest rebound in some leisure flight bookings in Europe overall, but a retrenchment in other areas.
Skyscanner, the Edinburgh-headquartered, travel price-comparison brand owned by Trip.com Group, said its search and bookings volume for short-haul flights have been growing. Yet caution remains the watchword. The brand’s poll of nearly 2,000 Europeans between July 20 and 26 found that 24 percent perceive it is safe to travel internationally.
Across Europe in general, short-hop cheap flights remain a segment recovering faster than the rest of aviation. Budget carrier EasyJet said Tuesday that its planes flew 84 percent full in July and that it would add more than 10 percent to its flight capacity through September than it had planned. Ryanair’s CEO outlined a more aggressive push in service late last month for Europe’s largest low-cost carrier.
But exceptions remain. Searches for flights from the UK to Spain by British travelers dropped by 53 percent, week-over-week, on travel search brand Skyscanner after July 26, when the UK government imposed a two-week quarantine on residents returning from holidays in Spain.
The rebound in cheap leisure flights is promising news for price-comparison brands like Skyscanner. Consumers tend to turn to metasearch brands for finding the most affordable deals but often look elsewhere for more complicated trips.
But a hit to revenue has led Skyscanner to consider layoffs of up to about a fifth of its 1,500 workers.
“Around 20 percent of staff globally are at risk,” a spokesperson said in response to a Skift query. “But as we will have collective consultations in a number of our office locations, we can’t give a definitive number at this stage.”
Skyscanner will close its offices in Budapest and Sofia, where it has less than 38 people each, and is looking at structural changes which will result in reduced operations in Miami and Singapore, the company said.
To try to help boost tourism overall, Skyscanner this week added airline safety ratings to its flight search results to help restore confidence among consumers. The ratings, sourced form AirlineRatings.com, score each airline across criteria including mask wearing policies, cleaning measures, food service changes, and crew personal protective equipment.
Skyscanner said it had seen new behaviors emerging among the quarter of people currently willing to book travel. These behaviors included shorter booking horizons and a preference for shorter-haul flights.
The data Skyscanner shared Thursday lines up with data from Skift Research has been tracking that has suggested the travel recovery will not be linear or uniform.
The choppy recovery with inconsistent policies is hurting European travel, as Skift has noted.
For instance, a survey by market research firm YouGov done between July 13 and 23 showed that “two-thirds of Germans who normally travel abroad would cancel a holiday if they needed a test upon arrival.”
An uptick in domestic travel is another sign of the changed dynamic. Many Britons have chosen to holiday at home, with short-term rentals being especially popular. Awaze, which owns British holiday cottage operators Hoseasons and cottages.com, said its summer bookings were triple the level of a year ago.
Spain, the biggest beneficiary of UK outbound holiday tourism, risks a blow to its reputation due to the UK quarantine rules. Domestic tourism is weak, too. Even its internal flight levels are about a third of what they were a year ago.
Back in June, Spain had more reason to hope. Between June 14 and June 28, week-on-week searches on Skyscanner to Spain by UK travelers increased by 134 percent. That trend coincided with most European Union countries relaxing border controls and promised a salvaging of some summer tourism. For context, read “Tourism’s Jagged Reopening May Be Worse Than Not Reopening At All.”
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Photo credit: Young Asian woman with backpack in international airport looking at the flight information timetables board. Skyscanner, the travel price-comparison brand, has shared data suggesting a rebound in some types of flight bookings in Europe for cheap short hops. Adobe