Virgin Atlantic, British Airways Sales Jump on U.S. Opening
(Bloomberg) -- Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd.’s U.S. bookings surged more than 600% overnight Monday from a week earlier after the Biden administration said most foreigners fully inoculated against Covid-19 would be able to visit again.
New York saw the biggest surge in demand, the U.K. airline said in a statement Tuesday, while leisure destinations also performed well. Sales to Orlando, Miami and Las Vegas soared.
British Airways said its vacation division saw an almost 700% increase in searches week-on-week to destinations including Los Angeles and Boston.
The shares of European airlines and other travel-related companies gained for a second day following the U.S. decision. British Airways parent IAG SA led the way with a 7% advance after an 11% gain Monday before closing 3.1% higher. Deutsche Lufthansa AG rose as much as 5% and Air France-KLM 3.8%.
Virgin Atlantic isn’t listed but is considering a public offering in London as flights return, people with knowledge of the plan said last month.
Airline stocks were also buoyed by suggestions that the U.S. will allow in people inoculated with a range of Covid-19 shots. Officials told Bloomberg that the Centers for Disease Control currently considers people fully vaccinated when they have received a full course of a jabs listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization. That would include those from AstraZeneca Plc and Chinese developers Sinopharm Group and Sinovac Biotech Ltd.
Liberum said in a note that the news from Washington will boost carriers whose most profitable market has been largely closed for 18 months, identifying IAG, normally the No. 1 North Atlantic operator, as “the biggest beneficiary.”
The corridor connecting the U.S. and Europe was the most profitable corner of the aviation market before the coronavirus crisis, a hotspot for those paying extra for first- and business-class seats. European flag carriers are far more reliant on those routes than their U.S. counterparts, which have extensive, profitable domestic networks to fall back on.
Flight-search specialist Skyscanner said its website experienced a 54% surge in visits following the American announcement from a week earlier.
While U.K. routes led the way with a near 900% increase in economy-class bookings on Monday compared with Sunday, German flights to the U.S. saw a surge of more than 750% and demand from Spain was up in excess of 350%.
Airlines on both sides of the Atlantic have lobbied forcefully for a relaxation of travel curbs throughout the pandemic, and particularly after vaccine rollouts gathered pace earlier this year. While the European Union and the U.K. began allowing in inoculated Americans over the summer, the Biden administration had held off on reciprocating.
EasyJet Plc, Britain’s biggest short-haul airline, said it has also experienced an increase in bookings following the U.K. government’s decision Friday to ease coronavirus testing requirements for fully vaccinated arrivals, removing a significant barrier to travel.
However, while sales picked up over the weekend, the impact was limited following the end of the summer vacation season, with only a week of school holidays -- in October -- remaining this side of the festive season, Chief Commercial Officer Sophie Dekkers told a House of Commons transport committee hearing.
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