European airports passenger numbers slightly up in time for Christmas after plunging amid Omicron fears
Passenger traffic through European airports increased nine per cent last week, as people make journeys to meet loved ones for the festive season, amid a “substantive” drop in traffic since Omicron was first detected.
The number of passengers passing through Europe’s airports has fallen by around a fifth in the three weeks after the Omicron variant was detected in November, according to data published by airport trade body ACI Europe today.
The news comes as travel restrictions have been reinstated by countries in recent weeks in response to the spread of Omicron, and after industry expert warned that being on a plane can double the risk of infection.
While the UK government is holding off on introducing a lockdown, at least for now, around 30 countries have entry rules for travellers from Britain which effectively bar entry. F
ance banned non-essential travel from the UK while Germany imposed a two week quarantine as Omicron continues to spread like wildfire with Britain reporting more than 90,000 new cases earlier this week.
“It is no surprise that the flight bans to Southern Africa and the patchy travel restrictions imposed by many Governments on other markets – including within Europe – have directly impacted traffic levels in the past weeks,” said Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe.
While last week’s data provided a small glimmer of hope, as more “Europeans are craving getting together and reuniting with loved ones for Christmas,” Jankovec warned against the damaging impact of government restrictions on travel in 2022.
“Beyond the holiday season, there is no doubt that Omicron will take its toll on passenger traffic in the first quarter of 2022.”
“But the extent to which we need to revise our expectations will primarily depend on whether Governments continue with knee-jerk reactions or not.”
“Omicron is fast becoming the dominant variant across Europe, which according to the ECDC makes travel restrictions ineffective from a public health perspective and highly damaging both economically and socially.”