Latest airline updates as UK casts doubts on summer holidays
Confusion whether summer holidays will go ahead or not this year continues as leading figures in the travel industry signal different approaches. Yesterday the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned it is "too soon" to book a holiday, whereas TUI confidently announced that 2.8 million bookings had been made for summer 2021.
TUI boss Fritz Joussen signalled that the company had plans to operate at 80 percent of 2019 levels, placing trust in the "rapid vaccination progress" and testing system that will release the industry from a "standstill".
However the UK Government appears to be taking a more reserved approach with Grant Shapps unsure whether or not holiday planning will feature in Boris Johnson's lockdown announcement on February 22nd.
Schapps said that "people shouldn't be booking holidays right now, neither domestically nor internationally. The Prime Minister will say more about the route to unlocking the country, when he speaks about it on February 22nd, but we don't know yet whether that will include information on things like holidays, simply because we don't know where we'll be up to in terms of the decline in cases, deaths, and vaccinations.”
He added that "it is not just the vaccination programme here, but the vaccination programme internationally that is important, because people will be going outside of our borders. So it's too soon."
Here are the latest updates from some of the travel and flight companies:
Due to the impact of Covid on travel, Tui will not be operating the following holidays:
- All Tui holidays due to depart on or before February 28th 2021.
- Holidays to the below destinations due to depart on or before 30th April 2021:
- Goa, India
- La Palma, Canary Islands
- Phuket, Thailand
- The Gambia
You can make a change with no fee up until 21 days before departure if you have a booking which falls into one of the following categories:
- Bookings made before February 28th 2021, due to depart before April 30th 2021.
- Bookings made between December 22nd 2020 and February 28th 2021, due to depart before October 31st 2021.
In the latest statement from TUI boss Fritz Joussen, he said: "The English market has a special significance for our company. We see an impressive pace and ambitious targets for vaccinations there. Vaccinations and rapid tests make an end to the standstill in tourism possible. I am hopeful that after a slow start, more energy is now being put on vaccination and the availability of rapid tests in other countries. We should do everything we can to quickly return to basic freedoms and make travel possible again."
He added: "As expected, customers will book their summer holidays much later this year than in normal years. However, demand remains strong, people want to travel, and this is shown by the already good number of bookings for the summer."
it was announced on Tuesday, February 9th, that Jet2 and Jet2holidays have cancelled all flights and holidays up until April 14th meaning they are not operating until after Easter.
Previously the company had given the date as March 25th, which has been extended by a few weeks. In its latest statement Jet2 said: "Due to the ongoing uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and government travel restrictions, we’ve taken the decision to extend the suspension of all flights up to and including April 14th 2021."
Customers will be contacted directly by Jet2 holidays and automatically issued with a refund equal to the amount paid. However, holidaymakers who have had their plans changed are not entitled to additional compensation on top of their refund.
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Ryanair announced on January 26th a new extension of its free flight change fee for all customers who book before March 31st. The airline also confirmed that passengers will be allowed to make two booking date moves until October 31st this year. It said the extension comes in light of "ever-changing Covid restrictions".
Ryanair has said it wants to give customers greater "peace of mind" when booking their Easter and Summer 2021 flights and holidays, which is when they believe air travel will re-start. The company cites the "successful roll-out of the Covid vaccines" in the UK, Denmark and many other EU states as the reason for its confidence.
Wizz Air has unveiled its flight schedule for the coming winter; a pre-sale is now open to members, while tickets can be booked by the public from February 18th.
Although travel is currently restricted by government regulations, the airline said many travellers will be wanting to plan-ahead, and the airline is offering flights to over 144 destinations from 12 UK airports.
The low-cost carrier has also introduced a new feature on its mobile app which will enable customers to activate price alerts on flights of interest. The feature will automatically notify users of increases or decreases in ticket prices, so that customers can book quickly if fares suddenly start to climb or take advantage of price drops.
Paulina Gosk, corporate communications manager at Wizz Air, said: “At Wizz, we understand that passengers are looking for affordable flights when they plan their travels. The price alert app feature builds on this commitment, enabling Wizz Air customers to secure the best deals on flights through updates sent straight to their smartphone.
“We know travellers are dreaming about their holiday plans for when restrictions ease, which is why we’re excited to launch this feature to make sure they are getting the best deal possible.”
easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said yesterday that the airline had ‘done a deal’ with Norwegian on its London Gatwick slots for summer 2021, acquiring 87 new slots, along with taking back a further 35 of its own.
He also called on the government to provide details of how it will relax its current border restrictions in order to give people the confidence to travel again.
Speaking to the CAPA Aviation conference yesterday morning, Lundgren said: “The most important thing now is that the government comes out and says how it is going to unwind the measures”.
He also said that the budget carrier had begun to see demand return for summer holidays at traditional resort destinations, adding that the industry could enjoy a successful holiday period if the vaccine programme works, particularly on variants of the coronavirus.
Thomas Cook has confirmed that customers are still making bookings for future holidays and hope that people will be able to enjoy their Summer in the sun. Alan French, Chief Executive of Thomas Cook, told Sky News yesterday (February 10th): "We do see holidays being likely this Summer."
He said there is an underlying desire for people to want to go on holiday, and confirmed that, “if customers want to book holidays and then are unable to go due to restrictions then they can get a refund.”