Air passenger traffic in Europe decreased by 20% over three weeks since South Africa informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of the occurrence of the omicron variant of coronavirus, according to estimates by the Airports Council International in Europe (ACI Europe) published this Thursday.

ACI Europe highlighted in a note that between weeks 47 and 49 of this 2021 (from November 22 to December 12) passenger air traffic in Europe dropped twenty percentage points, which he considered an “immediate and substantial” impact of Omicron. South Africa informed the WHO of the appearance of the variant on 24 November.

The twenty percent reduction is a preliminary estimate based on data from forty airports in twenty-five European countries, and includes both large facilities and small regional airfields.

The load factor on flights to and from European airports decreased from 66% in week 46 of the year to 54% in week 49.

However, ACI Europe acknowledged that last week, from December 13 to 19, a 9% increase in passenger air traffic was detected in Europe compared to the period from December 6 to 12. The load factor increased by two percentage points, to 56%.

“It is no surprise that flight bans to southern Africa and uneven travel restrictions imposed by many governments in other markets, including within Europe, have had a direct impact on traffic levels in recent weeks,” stated ACI Europe CEO Olivier Jankovec.

He indicated that business trips have been the first to be affected and that leisure trips now follow.

Jankovec assured that, according to last week’s data, only the routes to visit relatives “remain in some way for now”, in the middle of the Christmas season.

“Beyond the holiday season there is no doubt that omicron will affect passenger traffic in the first quarter of 2022. But the extent to which we need to revise our expectations will mainly depend on whether or not governments continue with their thoughtless reactions.” He said.

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