Air travel in and out of the United Kingdom declined by more than 70 percent in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the globe.
According to data released by aviation analytics company Cirium in its annual On-Time Performance Review, reported by Business Traveller, there was a 71 percent drop in international flights in and out of the UK this year.
The report examines flight status and arrival data curated from over 600 global sources, including published schedules, government agencies, civil aviation authorities, airlines, airports, and major airline reservation systems.
Roughly 406,060 international flights operated from the country between January and December this year compared with 1,399,170 in 2019 before pandemic-related travel restrictions were put in place.
In that same period, Heathrow welcomed 78,820 flights, Stansted 32,070, Manchester 29,690, Gatwick 25,960, and Luton welcomed 19,770.
Budget airline Ryanair remained the largest carrier in the UK, with around 101,420 UK flights in 2021. This was followed by easyJet, with 82,580 flights, and British Airways with 77,460 flights.
The busiest international route was between London’s Heathrow and New York’s JFK, despite the United States closing its borders to travelers at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
The White House reopened its borders to UK travelers with proof of vaccination in November. American travelers had been able to fly to the UK since July 28.
Meanwhile, UK domestic flights declined by almost 60 percent.
The UK’s busiest domestic route was the 31-mile flight between Land’s End to St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly, with a total of 2,330 one-way flights recorded this year, all of which were operated by Scilly Skybus.
“Cirium’s On-Time Performance Report reveals a dramatic 71 percent fall in international flights to and from the UK during 2021, as the aviation sector continues its recovery from the impact of COVID-19 travel restrictions,” Jeremy Bowen, Cirium CEO, said.
“Cirium analysis shows UK domestic flights have fared better with a lower reduction of 60 percent, as the huge pent-up demand for restriction-free flying returns—led by leisure travel followed by the more cautious recovery of business travel,” Bowen said.
The data comes as thousands of flights across the United States have been canceled and delayed in recent days over the peak holiday period amid a nationwide surge in CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus cases.
Some of the biggest airlines in the United States, including Delta and American airlines, were forced to scrap both national and international flights after staff members tested positive for the virus amid an influx in Omicron variant cases, leaving airlines facing employee shortages.
On Tuesday, around 3,129 flights were canceled globally, according to the flight-tracking website, FlightAware. Of those, 1,291 were within, or to, or from the United States.
There were 177,201 confirmed cases of Omicron in the UK as of Dec. 28, according to government data (pdf). However, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed on Dec. 27 that no further COVID-19 restrictions will be introduced in England, at least before the new year.
In the United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky told The Associated Press on Monday that the United States will experience significantly more Omicron cases.
“Not all of those cases are going to be severe. In fact many are going to be asymptomatic,” she said. “We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science.”