Covid-related travel restrictions led to a 71 per cent reduction in the number of international flights to and from UK airports this year compared with pre-pandemic levels, new analysis shows.
Aviation analytics firm Cirium said around 406,060 international flights served UK airports during 2021 up to December 22, compared with 1,399,170 in the pre-pandemic period of 2019.
The recovery of international travel from the virus crisis has been limited due to testing and quarantine requirements, and fears of countries being added to the red list which involved mandatory hotel quarantine.
The rules for people arriving in the UK have changed throughout the year.
Currently, fully vaccinated travellers must take a pre-departure test, and self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a post-arrival test. Those who are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate for 10 days after they arrive.
Ryanair operated with most UK flights – around 101,420, while EasyJet was in second place with 82,850 and British Airways was third with 77,460.
The most popular international route from the UK in 2021 was London Heathrow to New York’s JFK, despite the US only reopening its borders in November.
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue operated a total of 2,410 flights on the route by the end of the year.
The busiest international routes were within the Common Travel Area, which includes the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
Arrivals into the UK on those routes did not face testing or quarantine requirements.
The number of domestic flights within the UK was down nearly 60 per cent compared with 2019. The busiest route was in Cornwall, between Land’s End and St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly, which saw 2,330 flights.