LONDON — The latest stats indicate a downturn in flight bookings to Europe, however the impact so far is not as bad as some in the industry had feared.
According to ForwardKeys, which compiles and analyzes ticketing data from online booking sites, travel agencies and airlines around the world, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused an immediate stall in flight bookings to Europe and within Russia domestically.
In its second public analysis since the outbreak of war, ForwardKeys compared flight bookings in the week following the invasion, Feb. 24 – March 2, 2022 to the previous seven days. Excluding Ukraine and Moldova, which closed their air space, and Russia and Belarus, which were subjected to flight bans and safety warnings, the destinations worst affected were generally those closest to the conflict, says Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys.
Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia all saw a 30% – 50% decrease in bookings. All the other European countries, except for Belgium, Iceland, and Serbia, which saw single digit drops, experienced a decline in bookings between 10% and 30%.
Says Ponti: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made an immediate impact, stalling what had been a strong recovery in travel since early January.”
However, he adds: “What I find surprising is that transatlantic travel and western European destinations have been less badly affected than I feared – North Americans can tell the difference between war in Ukraine and war in Europe, and so far, it seems that travellers regard the rest of Europe as relatively safe. There is also a strong pent-up demand.
Ponti notes that in the wake of the invasion, Serbia has become the gateway for travel between Russia and Europe. “However, these are early days in a global political and economic crisis; so, what happens to travel will certainly be affected by the progress of the war and the impact of sanctions. Over the coming weeks, I expect we will see inflation and possible fuel supply issues pulling back what would otherwise be a strong post-pandemic recovery, as COVID-19 travel restrictions are progressively lifted.”