Airlines brace for threat from Europe’s surge of Covid infections

The increase in coronavirus cases on the European continent has cast a shadow over the recovery industry, with Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary predicting a “critical time” next month.

Covid cases are fatal fast climb in several countries in the region, and a number of countries, including Austria and Slovakia, have established relatively restrictive countries in the fight against disease.

Concerns over the weak winter season have come to the fore, with shares of easyJet, the owner of British Airways IAG and the largest hotel group in Europe Accor each dropped about 15 percent in the past three weeks.

O’Leary said it was “inevitable” that the rise in Covid charges would hamper travel. “It looks like Europe is going to be scared again at the worst time of the year, as people prepare for the Christmas tour,” he said this week.

Uncertainty could also extend to early reserves for next summer, which tends to come between Christmas and the New Year, he added.

Airlines have slightly altered their air traffic control, and the number of pre-arranged seats in western Europe has dropped over the past three weeks, according to an OAG study.

“European travel targets have been affected by the rise of Covid cases across the region, as well as by the closure and announcement in many European countries,” said Axel Hefer, Trivago’s chief executive.

Hefer said there had been a 50 percent reduction in the number of domestic and international travel destinations in Austria, as well as a 35 percent decline in the Netherlands, as the government imposed new restrictions on unwanted bars, restaurants and shops.

Accommodation in Amsterdam has dropped from 62 percent in October last week to 41 percent this week, and in Vienna and Munich has dropped, according to figures from STR, the provider of hospitality information.

There has been a decline in interest in finding hotels in Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, according to Expedia, an online travel agency.

While the crisis is plaguing companies recovering from the effects of the previous epidemic, things are still much better than the vaccine before allowing a reopening of the tour earlier this year.

November is often the quietest month for a company, and airplanes are preparing to re-energize to enter the busy Christmas season, OAG said.

The airline hunt so far this month has risen by 80 percent from the same month last year, according to travel agency Amadeus.

Mark Simpson, an aviation researcher at Goodbody, said the current crisis in the airline industry should not tarnish the long-term recovery image.

“No one is buying this section for Christmas, they are buying summer 2022 and 2023,” he said.

“Airlines have come down as if they were facing a threat last year, but I don’t see it. You have to keep your faith in the difficult months ahead.”

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