Traveling to Europe this summer? Here’s what to expect
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The recent Easter travel period offered a glimpse into what is to come for anyone traveling to or around Europe this summer. There’s cause for celebration, but the resurgence of travel is likely to be met with frustration as well.
Here’s what to expect:
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Fewer or no entry requirements
Several European countries have already dropped all entry requirements related to the pandemic and it is likely other countries will follow suit.
While traveling to European countries such as Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece during the summers of 2020 and 2021 required dealing with numerous health declarations, negative tests and ever-evolving vaccination requirements, this summer, travel will be much more like it was pre-pandemic.
For example, to enter Denmark right now, you need nothing more than a ticket and a passport.
Less mask-wearing and social distancing
At the time of publication, you no longer need to wear masks (even indoors in crowded spaces, including on flights) in these countries:
- Czech Republic.
- United Kingdom.
It’s likely that more countries will be added to this list in the coming weeks and months. Travelers are welcome to continue wearing masks wherever and whenever they wish, though they may find themselves in the minority rather than the majority, depending on where they go.
Social distancing is likely to also be a thing of the past in these destinations, so be prepared for bustling bars and restaurants crammed with people once again.
This summer will see the most unrestricted travel in Europe in more than two years.
Events such as weddings, conferences and festivals that have been rescheduled repeatedly now appear likely to proceed in 2022.
All of this means you can expect to see plenty of people traveling around Europe this summer. Those who haven’t packed a suitcase in two years may be a little out of practice when it comes to navigating airports and separating items at security checkpoints. Be patient with those who take a little longer than usual, and also plan ahead to give yourself plenty of time to avoid the stress of feeling rushed and panicked at airports.
Travel operators saw a surplus of staff during periods with COVID-19 travel restrictions such as border closures and bans on nonessential travel. Some staff left the industry in search of more pandemic-proof employment and have not returned.
As demand for travel quickly resumed in 2022, travel operators from airlines to hotels to airport operators have often found themselves short-handed. The staffing issues are particularly difficult to solve for airlines and airports, as new staff must go through extensive government background security checks that can take many months to complete.
Travel providers are desperately trying to recruit staff — London‘s Heathrow Airport (LHR) has the ambitious task of trying to recruit 12,000 new workers in just six weeks before it finally reopens Terminal 4 in June. There is fierce competition for new staff in the travel industry, especially those that can start immediately and/or already have security clearance and completed the time-consuming government background checks.
Whether these companies manage to recruit enough staff in time is anyone’s guess, but if you are lined up at a counter that appears to be understaffed, this may be the reason.
Delays and cancellations
More passengers, fewer workers and complex supply chain issues have already resulted in disrupted travel. New hotel openings have been delayed, and some airlines have already proactively reduced their summer schedules, realizing it is unlikely they will be able to operate all the flights they had planned — no matter how much they would welcome the business.
TPG’s Jordan Waller experienced this first-hand recently when a return flight from Budapest with British Airways was canceled a week before he was due to fly.
“In this instance, I was able to quickly arrange an earlier flight home, but it’s worth making sure you have some emergency funds and the relevant contact details of your airline if you’re holidaying somewhere with limited flights and find yourself in the position of inadvertently having to extend your trip,” Jordan says.
Hopefully, the disruptions stabilize somewhat as travel providers learn to navigate these new environments. But with so many disruptive factors colliding at once, there is an increased chance your flight could be delayed or changed this summer across Europe or that you don’t make it through security in time to board your flight.
Again, be patient with both your fellow travelers and staff members who are trying their best to get you to your destination.
Less flexible change and cancellation policies
In 2020, travel providers introduced generous flexibility on travel planning to both preserve cash flow and encourage their customers to continue to book travel. This may have been in the form of a “no questions asked” travel voucher or the ability to make unlimited changes to your booking if your plans changed last minute for reasons beyond your control (such as testing positive for COVID-19).
While this increased flexibility for the traveling consumer will hopefully last forever, there is far less need for travel providers to continue to offer it. Reintroducing change fees is easy revenue for companies that have sustained two years of losses.
Ryanair, one of the world’s least flexible airlines, has already removed its COVID-19 flexibility policies and is back to charging for everything.
If you are unable to follow through with your travel plans this summer, you may find your airline or hotel is much stricter than it was 12 months ago.
If you did travel during the last two years, you may have found some bargain travel deals as supply exceeded demand, leaving planes and hotels mostly empty.
For a number of reasons, cheap deals are less likely this summer:
- Euro area annual inflation was 7.4% in March 2022, up from 5.9% in February 2022, driven in part by recent increases to energy prices. The cost of providing goods and services has already increased, and this will be passed on to consumers.
- Many travel providers have endured heavy losses during the pandemic and will be keen to recoup some of these losses as demand returns.
- More travelers means more demand, which will result in higher prices.
If you have not booked your flights, accommodation, car rental and activities for summer yet, do this as soon as possible. Prices are unlikely to become any cheaper than they are now and may well rise even further.
This is going to be a big summer for travel to and within Europe.
Travel will be easier in terms of fewer restrictions, required tests and mask requirements. Do be aware that prices are steadily increasing, though, so finalize any plans now to avoid paying more down the line. With so many people resuming travel at once, there also will undoubtedly be a strain put on the understaffed travel industry — so you will need not just money but patience to navigate that European trip.
Featured image by Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images.
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