Europe’s airports face chaos as travelers return

Echoing what US airlines have faced with the spread of Omicron, easyJet said hundreds of cancellations have occurred due to crew absences linked to the coronavirus. British Airways is also struggling with staff sickness but said the majority of its flights continue to operate as planned.

On Tuesday, easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said he had expected to see a rise in Covid infections across the UK and other parts of Europe had fallen by now, but that hasn’t happened yet. “Until that moment, we will continue to monitor the situation,” he said.

However, the airline moved 94 percent of its planned schedule last week, the most flights since 2019, and is confident it will be able to return to a schedule close to the pandemic by summer, Longren added.

For American travelers, one of their biggest concerns is the pre-departure coronavirus test required to return home, which they feel could mean they will be stuck abroad if they test positive. Among the major western tourist destinations, the United States is reluctant to continue to require a negative entry test; The Netherlands, Ireland and Jamaica have all recently dropped this requirement.

The US travel industry is pressing the Biden administration to drop both testing requirements and mask authorization for planes and other public transportation. The American Association of Travel Consultants, or ASTA, has said internal testing requirements are the single biggest impediment to a full recovery of the international travel system.

The US government announced, on Wednesday, that it will extend the mandate requiring travelers to wear masks on public transportation, including on planes and at airports, for another two weeks. It did not address the future of pre-arrival testing requirements.

Travel demand among American travelers to European destinations is recovering, but dwindled due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. In a recent survey of 1,300 Americans by travel app TripIt, 33% of survey respondents said they would take a trip abroad by June. Travel booking site Huber said that in March, 15 percent of international bookings on its site were for US travel to Europe, down 6 percent since the invasion. In 2019, US travel to Europe accounted for 30 percent of international bookings on the site.

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