• Reuters

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Europe’s travel recovery stalled at the start of this month after a stronger performance in July, as quarantine rules and warnings over rising infection rates created uncertainty and deterred tourists from booking trips abroad.

In July, ticket numbers for cross-border air travel within Europe stood at 28 percent of 2019’s levels, as Europeans began to travel again after months of lockdown.

But by the first week of August, volumes had fallen to 18 percent, according to data provided by travel analysis group ForwardKeys.

Britain brought back quarantine rules for arrivals from Spain on July 26, just over two weeks after saying travel there was safe, and this month added France, Croatia and Austria to the list with less than two days notice.

Rising COVID-19 infection levels in Spain have also prompted Austria, Sweden and Germany to warn against travel to the whole country or regions within it, creating uncertainty, and dampening airline hopes for a strong recovery.

Europe’s biggest airline by passenger numbers, Ryanair, said on Monday it was already seeing the impact of new restrictions on bookings and it would reduce its flight capacity plans for September and October.

Looking ahead, tickets issued for the fourth quarter for intra-Europe air travel are down 70 percent on last year, said Olivier Ponti, vice president at ForwardKeys.

Ryanair jets wait on the tarmac at Dublin airport on March 23. Ryanair will cut its September and October timetable by '20 percent' on weaker-than-expected demand following renewed travel restrictions in some European countries, the no-frills airline said Monday. | AFP-JIJI
Ryanair jets wait on the tarmac at Dublin airport on March 23. Ryanair will cut its September and October timetable by ’20 percent’ on weaker-than-expected demand following renewed travel restrictions in some European countries, the no-frills airline said Monday. | AFP-JIJI

The fast-changing situation also means people are waiting much later to make plans, searching for flights and booking much closer to their intended departure date than they did last year, he said.

Britain’s transport minister Grant Shapps on Thursday warned on Twitter: “Only travel if you are content to unexpectedly 14-day quarantine if required”.

With such warnings, airlines face an uphill battle to fill their planes and get people traveling again.

“Consumer confidence has been shattered by waves and waves of cancellations, uncertainties regarding refunds, swift changes regarding travel restrictions from one day to the next, and that’s something that is hampering recovery,” Ponti said.

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