Scale of UK aviation Covid collapse revealed: one million fewer international flights

Seven out of 10 international flights that started or ended in the UK were cancelled in 2021, compared with 2019, new data shows.

As Covid-related travel restrictions continued to dampen demand for aviation, airlines have seen a 71 per cent collapse in the number of international departures since 2019.

The aviation analyst Cirium says just 406,060 international flights served the UK in 2021, compared with 1,399,170 two years ago – a fall of almost one million.

London Heathrow saw the most flights, with almost 79,000 in 2021 – though it handled fewer passengers this year than in 2020.

In second place was London Stansted with 32,000 flights, followed by Manchester with 29,700.

London Gatwick slumped from second to fourth place with 26,000, while a fourth London airport, Luton, was fifth with almost 20,000.

The prime international route in 2021 from the UK was between London Heathrow and New York JFK. This is despite the face that the US only admitted British visitors from 8 November onwards, following a 19-month ban.

In second place was London Heathrow to Dublin. All but one of the remaining top 10 destinations were from Heathrow, with Amsterdam, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt in third, fourth and fifth place.

Gatwick to Dublin is the only top 10 route that was not from Heathrow.

The largest carrier by UK flights was Ryanair, with 101,420 flights in 2021. In second place was easyJet with 82,580 flights. British Airways, Loganair and Jet2 took third, fourth and fifth places.

UK domestic flights were down nearly 60 per cent compared with 2019. The busiest in terms of departures – but not passengers – was between Land’s End in Cornwall and St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly.

The 31-mile link saw around 2,330 one-way flights in 2021 – all operated by Isles of Scilly Skybus’s fleet of seven aircraft.

Second busiest was Heathrow to Belfast City (1,590 flights). Heathrow to Edinburgh was third at 1,530. Loganair was the largest airline for domestic flights with 32,830 services in 2021, just 30 ahead of easyJet. Both carriers operated more than twice was many as British Airways (15,390).

Flybe topped the list of domestic flights in 2019, with a total of 87,020 departures. The airline collapsed in March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic began.

The figures appear in from Cirium’s On-Time Performance Review 2021.

All Nippon Airways was named as the most punctual airline globally, with Vueling – sister airline of British Airways – most reliably on-time in Europe.

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