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Long-haul travel, recovering despite major challenges

  • An analysis of Italy, Spain, England, France, and Germany source markets indicates recovery in long-distance flights between 7% and 11% below 2019 levels, which shows an increase compared to 2022.
  • Long-haul recovery has been cautious due to Covid restrictions in some countries and lower travel confidence.
  • The geographic distribution of long-haul routes has changed significantly, and new routes to remote destinations have emerged, some of them from secondary airports.

We have conducted a study that showcases how long-haul travel is on the way to recovery. The analysis of air connectivity data focuses on the markets of Italy, Spain, England, France, and Germany for long-haul destinations from April to October 2023, and reveals that flight seat volumes are between 7% and 11% below 2019 levels. 2023 data indicates a recovery compared to data from 2022, where the decrease was 30%–60% compared to 2019.

Domestic air connectivity has recovered over the past year, in some cases surpassing pre-pandemic levels. However, the recovery of connectivity to long-haul destinations has been slower, in part because some countries have maintained Covid restrictions and in part because travellers have been hesitant to regain confidence in travelling to more remote destinations.

It is notable, however, that the geographical distribution of these long-haul routes has changed significantly in certain countries. There are new routes to remote destinations, some of them from secondary airports, and long-haul routes are recovering differently among different airports within the same country.

“Although the recovery of long-haul connections is showing a positive trend, we must consider the current contextual factors, in addition to demand, which may limit this type of route. In this regard, the perception and concern for conscious travel may be a key factor holding back these routes, at least as we knew them. Additionally, the potential regulations and requirements that may be established.”

Carlos Cendra, our Director of Marketing & Sales

England

In England, long-haul capacity is 7% below 2019 levels. The recovery of long-haul is not uniform across all airports. For example, while at Gatwick it is below 37%, at Heathrow and Stansted it has increased by 3% and 30%, respectively.

This year, UK travellers looking for exotic and far-flung destinations can enjoy direct flights to destinations such as the Maldives and Trinidad and Tobago, among others. However, those who prefer Asia, particularly the Philippines and Indonesia, will have to make stopovers to reach their desired destinations.

Germany

In the case of Germany, long-haul capacity is 11% below 2019 levels. In addition, there is also a significant decrease in direct connections to long-haul countries, with a total of 24% fewer countries connected. Among the main airports operating long-haul flights, Düsseldorf Airport shows slower signs of recovery, with capacity 64% lower than in 2019.

In terms of new routes, direct flights are offered to destinations such as Sri Lanka and the Bahamas, while Malaysia, Gambia and Trinidad and Tobago are some of the most popular destinations.

Italy

In Italy, the number of seats for long-haul flights is 11% below 2019 levels. However, new direct connections to the country have been established from destinations such as Australia, the Bahamas, and Mauritius. New long-haul connections have been observed from less common airports, such as Naples airport, which has increased connectivity by 121% thanks to increased capacity with the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Another new development is the direct flights from Bergamo airport to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Cape Verde.

However, Italy this year does not have direct flights to destinations such as Thailand, Chile, and South Africa, among others, that it used to have in 2019.

Spain

Long-haul connectivity from Spain is 8% below 2019 levels. The number of countries connected has been reduced by only 3%, with new routes to Angola and El Salvador standing out, while non-renewed routes include Japan, South Africa, and Ethiopia.

Gran Canaria and Tenerife Norte airports have been the most difficult to renew long-haul flights, with a decrease of 52% and 70%, respectively, compared to 2019. However, Malaga has improved its direct connectivity, introducing new direct routes to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, among other destinations. Another important new flight connection has been a direct flight connecting Palma de Mallorca with New York.

France

The country shows an 8% reduction in long-haul air connectivity, while the total number of connected countries is down 9% compared to 2019. New developments include the fact that the French can enjoy connectivity to exotic destinations such as Tanzania, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka without the need for stopovers, although to reach destinations such as Ecuador, Venezuela, and the Seychelles they will have to look for additional connections.

Toulouse airport has seen the biggest increase in long-haul capacity, with the introduction of new routes connecting the destination to Qatar, Senegal, and Canada. In addition, Bordeaux airport has added new direct routes to Senegal and Guadeloupe.

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