25 January 2022, 09:23
The end of travel testing for fully jabbed tourists has been hailed by the boss of one of the UK’s biggest airlines – who expects to see customer levels return to pre-pandemic numbers by the summer’s end.
Johan Lundgren, the CEO of Easyjet, told LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast that people are always keen to get away when Covid restrictions ease up – and believes families will want a trip even if they face a cost of living squeeze this year.
The UK has ditched tests for fully-vaccinated arrivals in England from 4am on February 11, ahead of half term.
Mr Lundgren said on Tuesday: “We hope now that testing for travel will be a thing of the past and that’s great news for millions of millions of customers who now can plan and travel without the cost and inconvenience and great for the industry as well.”
He said travel testing, introduced to fight the Omicron variant’s spread, had caused a drop in bookings at a time of year that can be difficult for the industry even in normal times.
He added: “We were way below where we should be in normal years as well.
“But it’s also picking up as we’re going forward and we saw yesterday the announcement… if we compare that to Monday two weeks ago we were up over 30% for bookings in February, over 40% for bookings in March so that just shows you that there’s an underlying demand for travel. It’s all down to these restrictions.”
And those green shots mean he believes normal service will be resumed later this year for his airline.
“We are planning at Easyjet to be back close to 2019 levels by the end of the summer, so from July, August and September we believe we are going to be back to 2019 levels,” he said.
“There are some airlines who think still a number of years, 2024 perhaps, even to that extent, some airlines are predicting it to come back earlier.”
Mr Lundgren said other countries which had not implemented a testing regime like the UK’s had seen the airline operate at full capacity.
He insisted there would be demand even if people are facing higher bills this year due to issues like soaring energy bills, saying demand rises when restrictions go.
Taking aim at the decision to introduce testing, he said: “If you are of the view that you should introduce a measure you have to lead it into some type of evidence and not just think that’s what people like to hear, we should introduce it, because the polling tells us this is something that is popular.
“But look, I’m extraordinarily excited, they did absolutely the right thing yesterday, we’re very pleased about that and now we can look forward for a strong summer to come.”