Europe faces a “significant impact” to its air transport system after several nations cut or reduced transport links with Britain over fears of a new coronavirus strain, the Eurocontrol air traffic agency warned on Monday (21 December).
Eurocontrol Director General Eamonn Brennan said there had been 900 daily flights between Monday and Saturday last week between the United Kingdom and the 27 countries of the European Union.
“We’ll see a significant impact on the network as a result of the new (coronavirus) variant in the UK,” he wrote on Twitter.
Already reeling from the loss of some six million flights since March due to the pandemic, airlines faced a flood of overnight restrictions echoing the sudden impact of an Icelandic volcano ash emergency in 2010, albeit on reduced traffic levels.
“The measures came in at extremely short notice,” an airline industry official told Reuters.
Airlines were expected to issue a fresh appeal to step up testing regimes in order to keep borders open.
Eurocontrol listed various full or partial bans on flights from the UK.
Some, like Italy and Germany, exempted cargo and medical flights. Romania also exempted mail flights, but it was not immediately clear to what extent postal services would be affected elsewhere.
Germany’s Deutsche Post said earlier it was halting all deliveries of parcels to Britain.
France, Latvia and Bulgaria banned all flights from Britain with no apparent exemptions, according to notices to pilots. Britain expressed surprised at the French freight ban.
Airlines operating in London Heathrow, meanwhile, were warned to ensure passengers do not become stranded in Britain and “can be appropriately routed to the final destination”.
The Netherlands said in an industry bulletin that Dutch carriers and Britain’s easyJet would be able to repatriate aircraft and crew “in order to get these planes out of the United Kingdom”.