UK air travel increased significantly in 2022, with more than 224 million passengers travelling to and from UK airports, reaching 75 per cent of 2019 levels, UK Civil Aviation Authority data reveals.
The figure is a considerable increase on 2021, which saw 65.4 million passengers travel through airports, and highlights strong passenger demand as the industry continues its post-pandemic recovery.
Recovery across the country has been mostly consistent, with London, regional and Scottish airports at around 74 per cent of 2019 levels.
Wales reached 79 per cent when compared to the same period. In Northern Ireland, Belfast International reached 77 per cent of its 2019 passenger numbers.
Among the 10 largest UK airports, Bristol was closest to its pre-pandemic levels, with almost eight million passengers travelling through the airport representing 89 per cent of 2019 numbers, followed closely by London Stansted at 83 per cent.
Spain (including the Canary Islands) was the UK’s most popular European destination in 2022, with around 16 per cent of all passengers carried (nearly 37 million) representing 83 per cent of its 2019 level.
The Republic of Ireland and Italy each carried roughly five per cent of the total (10.3 million passengers to the Irish Republic and 11.9 million passengers to Italy) representing 78 per cent and 74 per cent of their 2019 levels respectively.
Long haul travel to America continued to recover with more than 15 million passengers travelling, representing 70 per cent of its 2019 level.
Challenges for travel operators
During the first half of 2022 in particular, accelerated demand for air travel created challenges for travel operators, resulting in measures being put in place to manage flight disruption and improve resilience. This impact affected on time performance during 2022, with 63 per cent of flights deemed to have operated on time (inside 15 minutes of scheduled), a drop compared to pre-pandemic levels (75 per cent in 2019).
Approximately two per cent of all flights were cancelled during 2022, with May and June most heavily affected as travel bounced back from the pandemic. Weather conditions, including snow and icy conditions also contributed to cancellations in December.
Anna Bowles, Head of Consumers at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “More than three times as many people flew into and from UK airports last year compared to 2021, demonstrating a clear wish by consumers to return to travel as Covid restrictions were lifted, and giving industry a well-needed boost after a difficult few years.
“That bounce-back in passenger numbers was at times overshadowed by the challenges that the aviation sector faced in the early summer of 2022, which saw an unacceptable level of flight cancellations and delays.
“We expect to see increased resilience and continued improved performance by airlines in 2023, giving passengers the experience they expect and the confidence to continue to return to travel.”
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