Interest in flights soars after Boris Johnson reveals roadmap

Following the prime minister’s announcement yesterday, Key.Aero charts the UK airline industry’s story over the last year using internet search data

For almost 12 months now, the travelling public’s wings have been clipped as a consequence of the UK government implementing various mechanisms which have made international adventure almost impossible, save for a few weeks last summer. 

While people may not have been flying, they’ve most certainly been thinking about it and nothing shows this more clearly than Google Trends search data.  

The information indicates that interest in the website’s Flights application over the last year has remained at a low level after it fell off a cliff at the end of February and the middle of March.  

12 months flights
Search data for the last 12 months shows the level of interest in booking flights. Google Trends

This of course is linked closely with the implementation of the first nationwide lockdown on March 23. 

Over the summer months, there was an improvement in the overall situation with the pandemic which allowed a low level of flying to take place. This rebound can be seen in the search data between the start of June and September. 

The highlighted increased was caused by the announcement of 'bubbles'. Google Trends

There was a further spike between November 22-28 following newspaper reports beginning on November 21 that families may be able to form ‘bubbles’ over the Christmas period. When these were eventually scrapped in Tier 4 areas and curtailed in the rest of England, search data shows a decline in interest. 

Yesterday (February 22), ahead of the prime minister’s announcement of a roadmap to recovery there was a marked increase in search traffic for flights. 

While there is always a daily spike in the morning for searches, yesterday's levels were elevated in comparison to previous days. Google Trends

From about two o’clock onwards, there was an elevated level of searches for ‘flights’ on Google compared with previous days and it peaked at seven o’clock when the PM held his press conference.  

Today, the level of searches is at a noticeably higher level than previous days. This could represent the sense of optimism people may have towards the summer. 

flight cancellation
How flight searches compares to requests for information about flight cancellations and delays. Google Trends

Searches are one thing, but bookings are what really matter for the airline industry. The increased level of online activity has resulted in a sharp increase in sales of tickets for carriers. 

European low-cost carrier easyJet, saw flight bookings surge by 337% and holiday reservations by 630% since the UK government announcement last night.  

Leisure trips to Malaga, Alicante, Palma, Faro and Crete are among the top destinations and August, followed by July and September are proving to be the most popular times for travel. 

Photo Aviation Image Network/Wizzard

Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet, commented: “We have consistently seen that there is pent up demand for travel and this surge in bookings shows that this signal from the Government that it plans to reopen travel has been what UK consumers have been waiting for. 

“While the summer may be a little while off, we will be working around the clock to ensure we will be ready to ramp up our flights to reconnect friends and family or take them on long-awaited holiday to remember.” 

Photo Aviation Image Network/BaoLuo

This rebound is a welcome change for the airline and travel industries which have been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic.  

Responding to Boris Johnson’s announcement, Brian Strutton, BALPA general secretary, said: “Airlines can now start to make effective plans and we can build the confidence of the travelling public to make bookings for summer flights.  

“However, airlines and airports need financial support to survive until then because we have got at least three more months of grounded aircraft ahead, with virtually no revenue coming in to the airlines at all. I urge the Government to look urgently and seriously at an economic support package for the travel sector.” 

Photo Aviation Image Network/Simon Gregory
Photo Aviation Image Network/Simon Gregory

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to present his budget next Wednesday (March 3). Airlines, airports, and other industry stakeholders will be hoping for extra support to get them through to what they want to be a strong summer. 

Dale Keller, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK, commented: “Our pragmatic request of Government is to provide targeted support for a sector that supports around 960,000 jobs and generated £57 billion in GDP (direct, indirect or induced impacts) until we are given the go-ahead to reopen. There is much work ahead and the airline industry stands ready to offer is best talent to the Government in order to forge an exciting new flight path for aviation and international travel.”