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New air data has revealed the UK airline industry experienced a jump in shorter term international bookings – those with a purchase window of four weeks or fewer – over the busiest summer months of the year despite the ongoing uncertainty and travel restrictions. Demand for short-term trips increased by around 25% in July and August this year compared with pre-pandemic levels.
According to global airline sales data from Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), around half (52%) of all international flight bookings from the UK were purchased in a four-week window during July and August this year, compared to just over 40% of bookings over the same period in 2018 and 2019.
On average, over the same period Expedia Group saw a year-on-year increase in search volume for all flights, domestic and international. Compared to 2020, the highest growth increase came from short search window flights (up to 2 weeks), which saw a +70% growth. Conversely, bookings with a longer booking window were the trend at the start of the year, further demonstrating the unpredictable nature of demand that airlines have been grappling with throughout the year.
It is likely that optimism over travel opening up led to a surge in longer term bookings: 71% of flights booked in March this year were for travel three months in advance, compared to 40% for the same month in 2019 and 41% in 2018. Uncertainty around travel restrictions led to domestic destinations dominating flight searches for UK travellers this summer, despite the cautious return of international travel.
The most searched destination by UK travellers on Expedia Group sites in summer was London (35%), followed by Manchester (10%) and Edinburgh (10%). In comparison, while London was also the top destination in 2020, it was followed by New York and Paris a year ago.
“The past 18 months have been very uncertain for airlines, with all the usual trend data providing very little insight for planning. Just this year we have seen surges in long-term bookings early in the year quickly followed by a rush of last-minute bookings,” said Julie Kyse, VP of Global Air Partnerships in Expedia Group. “With prices still not recovering to pre-pandemic levels, airlines are having to react and be nimble in order to capitalise on the fluctuating demand for flights. Thankfully we are seeing an increase in longer-term planning for travel next year which is encouraging. Airlines who succeed will be the ones who use data smartly to capture the expected surge in travellers looking for last minute getaways.”
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