Europe’s Airports Face Chaos as Travelers Return

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In an echo of what American carriers faced as Omicron spread, easyJet said hundreds of its cancellations occurred because of coronavirus-related crew absences. British Airways has also been struggling with staff sickness but said a majority of its flights continue to operate as planned.

On Tuesday, easyJet’s chief executive officer, Johan Lundgren, said that he would have expected to see the spike in Covid infections across the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe to have dropped by now, but that has not happened yet. “Until that moment in time, we’ll continue to monitor the situation,” he said.

Still, the airline has flown 94 percent of its planned schedule in the last week, the highest number of flights operated since 2019, and is confident that it will be able to return to a near prepandemic schedule by the summer, Mr. Lungren added.

For American travelers, one of the biggest concerns is the pre-departure coronavirus test required to return home, which they feel could mean they’d be stuck overseas if they test positive. Among major Western tourist destinations, the United States is a holdout in continuing to require a negative test to enter; the Netherlands, Ireland and Jamaica all recently dropped the requirement.

The U.S. travel industry has been pushing the Biden administration to drop both the testing requirement and its mask mandate for planes and other public transportation. The American Society of Travel Advisors, or ASTA, said the inbound testing requirement is the single biggest barrier to the full recovery of the international travel system.

On Wednesday, the United States government announced that it would extend a mandate requiring travelers to wear masks on public transport, including on airplanes and at airports, for another two weeks. It has not addressed the future of the pre-arrival test requirement.

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Demand for travel among American travelers for European destinations is recovering but has been dimmed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. In a recent survey of 1,300 Americans by the travel app TripIt, 33 percent of respondents said they would take a trip abroad by June. The travel booking site Hopper said that, in March, 15 percent of international bookings on its site were for U.S. travel to Europe, down 6 percent since the invasion. In 2019, United States travel to Europe accounted for 30 percent of international bookings on the site.



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