LONDON (AP) — With all British schools now closed for the summer, airports and airlines were looking a tad more normal on Saturday, though the number of families heading off for warmer climes remains way down on the levels seen before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
This weekend traditionally marks the high point of the great summer getaway from Britain, with airports jam-packed with excitable children and their anxious parents heading off, primarily, to the popular beach resorts of southern Europe, from Portugal’s Algarve coast in the west to the sun-soaked island nation of Cyprus to the east.
However, with travel to and from many popular destinations facing varying quarantine and testing requirements, it’s clear that many British families think it’s all too much hassle, not to say costly, and have opted again to holiday within the U.K.
For the second year running, it’s all about the so-called “staycation.” What’s not to like about fish and chips and a game of crazy golf by the seaside and marshmallows over a campfire?
Still, the numbers venturing abroad are certainly on the up, partly as a result of the U.K.’s rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines that has seen nearly 70% of the adult population receive the requisite two doses.
That’s important for Britain’s travel sector, one of the worst affected during the sector, as well as many destinations in Europe which have relied heavily on the millions of British holidaymakers heading south.
Gatwick Airport, Britain’s second-busiest airport, said it expects to see around 250 to 260 departures a day. Though the concourses are not as busy as in pre-COVID times when four times as many flights took off, the weekend represents a marked pick-up. At the height of the pandemic, which effectively saw all nonessential travel to and from the U.K. banned, the airport was dealing with just 15 or so flights a day.
Spain remains the most popular foreign destination, with between 60 and 70 flights a day, while around 30 planes will depart each day for Greece.
“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,” the airport said in a statement.
“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.”
Airline easyJet said it is preparing to carry more than 135,000 passengers this weekend from the U.K. on over 80 routes across Europe.
Tui also said it has almost double the number of passengers traveling Friday to Sunday compared with last weekend and will be resuming flights to a series of destinations including the Greek islands of Kefalonia and Skiathos, and Marrakech in Morocco.
For most people in Britain, though, getting on those flights will have to wait. There’s always next year.
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Pan Pylas, The Associated Press