Hungarian budget carrier Wizz Air (WIZZ.L) flew into London’s Luton airport from Sofia on Friday, becoming one of the first European airlines to restart routes during the coronavirus pandemic.
European airlines have grounded the majority of their fleets over the last six weeks as governments imposed travel restrictions to combat the spread of the virus.
But Wizz Air said last week it planned to put some of its planes back in the air for essential travel, restoring services to destinations in Romania, Budapest in , Lisbon in Portugal and Spain’s Tenerife plus a few more.
A person familiar with the situation said the load factor on the flights operating on Friday was generally above 50%.
Across Europe, air traffic is down by about 90% according to global body IATA, with the flights that are still operating facilitating the repatriation of citizens, travel by medical experts, and cargo supplies.
Given ongoing travel restrictions – UK government advice for example is for Britons to avoid all non-essential global travel – Wizz has said that it does not expect flights to be full, enabling it to maintain social distancing onboard.
When travel restrictions do start to ease, it is likely that there will be tougher measures for flying, which could affect demand. Britain is considering a two-week quarantine requirement for arrivals into the country.