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No recovery in transatlantic flights for five years

Oliver Gill
·2-min read
British Airways
British Airways

Demand for transatlantic flights will not recover until at least 2026, leaving the likes of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic particularly exposed, experts have warned. 

Services from Europe to North America will be the last to recover, according to consultancy Bain.

Flights within Asia will rebound the fastest, returning to pre-pandemic levels in little more than a year.

Flying passengers between the UK and North America has been particularly profitable for BA in recent years, with the flag carrier holding a dominant position on a number of key routes. 

Virgin Atlantic had expected to return to profitability prior to the crisis. While Sir Richard Branson's airline secured a £1.2bn rescue over the summer, it remains to be seen how a second wave and a delayed recovery will affect the airline’s finances.   

Geoffrey Weston, head of Bain’s airlines practice, said that European airlines would suffer more than their US rivals. American carriers have a more profitable domestic market and an insolvency regime that more easily allows them to restructure operations and cut costs, he added. 

Meanwhile, BA and Virgin Atlantic have not benefited from multi billion-euro bailouts handed to the likes of Lufthansa and Air France-KLM

Aviation bosses have predicted that demand for air travel will take a number of years to recover. 

But the analysis by Bain signalled a wait of almost six years before transatlantic demand returns.

BA owner IAG, Lufthansa and US airlines United and American wrote to officials in Brussels and Washington in July calling for the “safe and swift restoration of air travel between the United States and Europe”. The quartet called for a testing regime to be put in place.

Progress has been slow, however. Heathrow chief John Holland-Kaye said last week that there was only a 50pc chance of having a testing regime in place by the end of November in time for Thanksgiving. 

Mr Weston added: "The US is by far the largest long-haul market for Heathrow so they need to do everything they can to try and re-establish these routes. This is difficult without clear and rapid multi-lateral coordination on testing and quarantine protocols. Heathrow’s initiative is a great step forward but it can’t be hoped to substitute for at-scale regulatory coordination.”

Separately, easyJet raised more than £300m from the sale and leaseback of nine aircraft.

Annual interest charges will increase by £15m as a result, the Luton-based airline said.