Covid-19 travel restrictions have caused a massive 71% drop in flights to and from the UK, according to a leading report.
Aeronautical analysis firm, Cirium, has released its 2021 On-Time Performance Report, the global standard for airline and airport operational performance.
Only 406,060 international flights operated from the UK, up from 1,399,170 during the pre-pandemic period of 2019.
The UK’s largest international route in 2021 was from London Heathrow to JFK in New York, although the US did not reopen its borders until November. Five airlines, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and newcomer JetBlue, have made a total of more than 2,410 flights on the route this year.
Flights operating in the common travel area showed a strong recovery in 2021, with arrivals in the UK facing no quarantine test or warrant. Two routes from the UK to Dublin are in the top 10 of all international routes from the UK, including London Heathrow and London Gatwick to Dublin.
Of the UK’s busiest routes this year, nine departed from London Heathrow and one departed from London Gatwick.
Unsurprisingly, London Heathrow recorded the highest number of flights, with more than 78,820 flights recorded in 2021. In second place was London Stansted with 32,070 flights, followed by Manchester (29,690 flights), London Gatwick (25,960 ) and London Luton (19,770).
Airlines serving short-haul markets fared better in 2021, with eight European routes making the top 10. London Heathrow to Amsterdam, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt ranked third, fourth and fifth respectively.
Domestic passenger flights in the UK have dropped significantly by almost 60% from 2019. Already a small domestic market, UK government restrictions have eased it further, with many choosing not to or not being allowed to travel.
Loganair was the largest domestic airline with around 32,830 services in 2021. It was followed by easyJet (32,800) and British Airways (15,390). By comparison, Flybe topped the list of domestic flights in 2019 – making a total of 87,020 flights.
The most frequented inland route, by flights, was Land’s End at St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly. The 31-mile route saw around 2,330 one-way flights in 2021 – all operated by the Penzance-based Isles of Scilly Skybus, with its fleet of seven planes.
From London Heathrow to Belfast City, more than 1,590 flights were made, while those to Edinburgh totaled around 1,530.
Low cost carriers have operated most flights in the UK, attracting price conscious travelers to the competitive market. The largest carrier was Ryanair with around 101,420 flights in 2021, or nearly 18.8 million seats. Low-cost carrier easyJet came in second with more than 82,580 flights and around 14.9 million seats.
In the airline ranking, the national carrier British Airways followed economic operators with 77,460 flights, but in terms of seats the airline managed to secure second place, behind Ryanair, with 15.2 million. of seats.
Regional carrier Loganair ranked fourth, with vacation airline Jet2.com taking fifth.
In Cirium’s 2021 European On-Time Performance Review category, three Spanish airlines are in the top five. No UK carrier has made the ranking, reflecting the impact of Covid-19.
Vueling took first place among the most punctual airlines in Europe with 92.1% of its flights per hour. Iberia Express (91.8%) and Iberia (90.3%) followed in second and third places. In particular, Vueling expanded internationally in 2021 with 65% of its third quarter capacity dedicated to international flights.
All Nippon Airways (ANA) is named the most punctual airline in the Global category with 95% of its flights on time. The carrier was closely followed by Japan Airlines (JAL) with 94.1%, reflecting the high standard set by Japanese aviation for punctuality. In third position, Aeroflot (91%), followed by LATAM (88.7%) and Delta Air Lines (87.8%).
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Jeremy Bowen, CEO of Cirium, said: “The Cirium on-time performance report reveals a dramatic 71% drop in international flights to and from the UK in 2021, as the aviation industry continues to recover from the impact of travel restrictions.
“Cirium’s analysis shows domestic UK flights fared better with a smaller 60% reduction as the huge pent-up demand for unrestricted flights returns – led by pleasure travel followed by more cautious resumption of business travel. “
Cirium’s punctuality performance analysis is based on flight data from over 600 real-time flight information sources. For an airline to be on time, its flights must arrive at the airport gate within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time.
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