Airports and airlines expect busiest weekend of year as summer lifts off

24 July 2021, 13:02 | Updated: 25 July 2021, 06:57

File photo of Heathrow Airport showing a busier check-in desk
File photo of Heathrow Airport showing a busier check-in desk. Picture: Alamy
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Airports and airlines are expecting their busiest weekend of the year so far as the summer holidays begin for millions of schoolchildren.

Between 250 and 260 flights carrying more than 25,000 passengers are set to depart from Gatwick each day this weekend, the airport said.

It represents a huge jump on the low of just 15 flights a day at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Spain is the most popular holiday destination, with between 60 and 70 flights on both Saturday and Sunday, while roughly 30 planes will leave each day for Greece, it added.

However, Gatwick representatives said flight numbers are still well below the 950 per day usually seen at this time of the year prior to Covid.

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A spokesman said: "Our passengers are now able to choose from flights to more than 100 destinations in over 30 countries so we're expecting our busiest weekend of the year so far.

"We will handle over 250 each day, with locations in Spain and Greece particularly popular.

"We've been looking forward to this weekend - the start of the summer holidays - for some time and cannot wait to finally see our passengers enjoying themselves, whether that's indulging in some retail therapy or eating in our restaurants, before jetting off on a well-deserved holiday."

Heathrow Airport said it was expecting to welcome about 128,000 passengers on Saturday and Sunday - down from daily volumes of around 230,000 to 260,000 in July 2019.

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CEO John Holland-Kaye said: "This weekend is set to be one of the busiest of the year so far. We're thrilled to see the terminals coming to life again, with most of the shops and restaurants now reopened.

"We have additional colleagues on hand to ensure our passengers have a smooth journey as they take well-deserved breaks or travel abroad for long-awaited reunions with loved ones."

Manchester Airports Group said it expects 958 flights at Manchester Airport from Friday to Monday, 224 at East Midlands Airport and 1,330 at London Stansted.

This is an increase on the 632, 177 and 735 respectively during the same weekend last year, but is still well below the 2,512 at Manchester, 503 at East Midlands and 2,139 at London Stansted in July 2019.

A spokesman said: "After what has been the most challenging year in our history, it is encouraging finally to start seeing some passengers return to our terminals.

"Allowing fully vaccinated travellers to visit amber list countries without quarantining on return has been an important step forward, opening up many more destinations for a well-deserved summer holiday.

"This increase in passengers is an encouraging but tentative step towards recovery, with volumes still significantly lower than they were before the pandemic."

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Airline easyJet said it is preparing to carry more than 135,000 passengers from the UK this weekend on over 80 routes to green and amber list destinations across Europe.

In total, the carrier will see 251 flights take to the skies, with popular destinations including Malta, Madeira, Malaga in Spain, Faro and Lisbon in Portugal, and Corfu and Athens in Greece.

Ali Gayward, the airline's UK country manager, said: "With schools breaking up for summer, this weekend sees the busiest weekend so far this year and we are looking forward to taking as many people as we can on that long-awaited and well-deserved trip, or to reunite them with their loved ones."

Tui said it has almost double the number of passengers travelling Friday to Sunday compared to last weekend, with the Balearics and Greece the "clear favourites" and Palma, Ibiza and Rhodes the most popular destinations.

A spokeswoman said it will be resuming flights to Alicante and Malaga in Spain, the Canary Island of Fuerteventura, Kefalonia and Skiathos in Greece, and Marrakech, Morocco, this weekend.

Jet2 said it has 170 flights departing to more than 40 destinations over the weekend, up from around 70 to six places the previous weekend.

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The spokeswoman added: "The start of school holidays in many parts of the UK means that this weekend will be the busiest in months and we're very excited about taking people away to enjoy a well-deserved and long-overdue holiday.

"Destinations such as the Balearics, Canaries, Croatia, Portugal and Greece are all looking very popular with holidaymakers this weekend and beyond, particularly with such great deals to be had."

Since May, quarantine and testing requirements have been determined by whether a person is entering the UK from a green, amber or red list location.

Travellers returning from a green destination are not required to self-isolate, but only a handful of major European summer hotspots are in that tier.

Spain, Italy and Greece are among the countries on the amber list.

Those returning from an amber country must quarantine at home for 10 days unless they have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.