Monday was the day British tourists had long been waiting for as international travel was finally given the green light. 

After months of flights being grounded, the lockdown rules easing allowed for holidays abroad to start back up again but how did that translate into the number of flights in our skies?

Previously only travel abroad was allowed for work purposes and other limited reasons but, as of Monday 17th, Brits could jet off to a list of 12 ‘Green List’ countries without the prospect of quarantine on arrival into the UK – including Portugal, Gibraltar and Iceland.

This traffic light system, devised by the UK Government, also consists of ‘Amber’ and ‘Red’ list countries which have different rules around quarantining and vaccinations.

Since Christmas, air traffic numbers have been bumping along at around 20% of “normal” and Easter weekend, which is typically one of the busiest for flight movements, was the lowest in recent history.

Our latest data visualisation shows the pre-pandemic traffic levels in 2019 compared to the equivalent day in 2021 and then the impact of Monday’s easing of restrictions:

[Above: UK traffic on May 17 (1,862) compared to the equivalent day in 2019 (7,744)]

Unsurprisingly, the biggest jump in traffic was to and from Portugal, with 78 flights this Monday compared to just 10 last Monday, although that’s still at 36% pre-pandemic levels.

France, an Amber list country, also saw flights increase from 69 to 101, reaching 25% of 2019 levels.

[Above: Traffic to/from Portugal on May 10th vs May 17th]

While the downturn in traffic this year has presented opportunities for us to test and develop technologies behind the scenes to support our customers, air traffic figures picking up is exceptionally good news.


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