Impact of COVID-19 on European Airlines and Market

Impact of COVID-19 on European Airlines and Market

[Ed Note: GLG worked with Skyscanner to update this article with new information after the webcast.]

European airlines, severely affected by the virtual freeze on travel as a result of the coronavirus, started to see a pickup in activity in July. In fact, about 50% of normal demand came back, seemingly indicating a positive trend for European, Middle Eastern, and Asian travel over the next few months. However, we have never seen a travel landscape quite as dynamic as the one we are operating in today. Changing government restrictions, consumer confidence, and other economic factors are impacting the travel market on a weekly basis, if not daily. This is why our data looks at traveler intent to provide us with a central resource to see how COVID-19 and associated events are impacting demand, in real time.

Skyscanner — my company — was originally designed to serve consumers with unbiased flight search results. About five years ago we realized our anonymized travel trends data could be of use to the wider industry too, and so we created a data product to offer insights into what travelers are searching for, where they want to go, and how much they’re willing to pay at any point. This information is valuable to airlines, online travel agents, airports, destination management organizations, and investment-related firms.

Essentially, Skyscanner captures the public’s intentions to fly, since each search expresses where that person wants to go and when, not what’s necessarily available. As a result, we can get a picture of demand up to 12 months in advance, including results from searches involving low-cost carriers, which is not available in data from other providers.

Source: Skyscanner Travel Insight

Right now, much of the recovery we’re seeing is within the regional European and domestic markets. International traffic is much more stagnant, given government restrictions and lack of traveler confidence. What’s interesting in the current pattern of recovery is that leisure travel has come back faster than business travel, which is the reverse of what some had been predicting.

Source: Skyscanner Travel Insight

We’re seeing low-cost carriers (LCCs) regain popularity across the region, following a dip when the pandemic first hit Europe. While some of the dominant LCCs have scaled back their schedules and capacity in light of the lower demand, others have taken this opportunity to aggressively gain market share by focusing on those European destinations that remain open to travelers. With attractive pricing and the ability to quickly repurpose their fleets to add capacity to the market where they see demand, LCCs continue to dominate the European travel landscape.

I believe we will see fares continue to drop until demand is stimulated to a point where airlines can achieve sustained and consistently high load factors across each of their networks.

Source: Skyscanner Travel Insight

While travel providers are driving a return to domestic and intra-European travel with attractive pricing, enhanced safety measures, and flexible booking policies, we’ve seen searches plateau in the last month following an increase in government-sanctioned restrictions and the knock-on impact on traveler confidence. However, with new measures such as airline testing and regional travel corridors being explored, we hope to see a continued positive growth trajectory over the next quarter.


About Matt Williamson

Matt Williamson is currently Commercial Lead, EMEA, Skyscanner. Previously, he held the positions of Commercial Manager | Data Products and Commercial Executive | Strategic Partnerships at Skyscanner. Prior to that, Matt served as Marketing Specialist at Appointedd. Before this, he was Marketing & Business Development Executive at Coachseek.


This article is adapted from the July 23, 2020, GLG teleconference “Airline Passenger Data: Industry Analysis.” If you would like access to this teleconference or would like to speak with Matt Williamson, or any of our more than 700,000 experts, contact us.