EasyJet saw a four-fold jump in sales in the days following the recent relaxation in travel rules for UK passengers, with winter sun seekers keen for some warm weather.
The boss of the airline said it shows there is a pent-up demand for travel and called on the UK Government to remove all restrictions for double-vaccinated passengers.
Johan Lundgren explained: “We had a 400% increase to Egypt and Turkey, so customers are eager to go and the testing is a big obstacle for them to go.”
He added: “It’s important to note that from July 1 the rest of Europe removed all restrictions for double-vaccinated passengers and clearly that’s what we’d like to see happen in the UK.
“The new announcements are a good step in the right direction. In Europe, travel has been allowed to grow there and there hasn’t been any evidence that travel has been any increase in the pandemic in those countries.”
As a result, some airports in Europe are now operating back to pre-pandemic levels.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps recently announced eligible fully-vaccinated arrivals can use a cheaper and quicker lateral flow test for their post-arrival test – rather than the PCR version – with rules in place by the end of the month.
Travel advisories to dozens of countries were also lifted this week.
Mr Lundgren’s comments come as EasyJet revealed a jump in the number of passengers taking intra-European flights but said UK international travel continued to struggle.
As a result, capacity for the group is now expected to be up to 70% of 2019 levels over the winter months and 100,000 new seats have been added for travellers looking to get away for the festive season.
The plan to increase services comes as the company saw a marked shift in passenger numbers over the summer months, with capacity in the past three months hitting 58% of 2019 levels.
This compared with just 17% of pre-pandemic levels in the three months to the end of June.
The summer growth was driven by strong growth in domestic traffic in the UK and intra-European flying, however UK international travel remained low at just 32% of 2019 levels.
As a result of the difficult year just gone, bosses predict they will record a pre-tax loss of between £1.14 billion and £1.18 billion, which is slightly ahead of City expectations.
Looking forward, bosses said they see more holidays being booked as Covid-19 restrictions ease on international travel, with bookings over the next six months double those compared with a year ago.
Mr Lundgren said he would be looking at expansion opportunities and did not rule out trying to take over some of British Airways’ Gatwick slots should the rival’s plan for a new low-cost airline fail.
He said the firm “will be ready to capture those opportunities for growth where they come”.
The boss also appeared unconcerned about BA’s proposed new airline, adding: “We have proven that we can compete against any airline, so we will just have to wait and see, but it’s not something we’re losing sleep over.”
Asked whether EasyJet has any plans to follow Virgin Atlantic’s announcement that all staff must be double-vaccinated against Covid-19, he said the airline would not.
He added: “We are encouraging our staff to take up the vaccination but we will follow the procedures in the countries we operate in… It is not a requirement.”
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