Covid Variant Weighs on Travel Rebound, Airports CEO Warns

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The spread in Europe of a more contagious form of Covid-19 is dashing hopes of recovery in air travel, with the head of a major airports operator warning that it could cut short any rebound.

“The delta variant is creating such uncertainty that we can’t be sure what’s going to happen in three weeks,” said Augustin de Romanet, chief executive officer of operator ADP, which also manages dozens of other hubs worldwide.

“It’s making us very, very cautious, especially for September and October when the pandemic could come back strongly once again,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of an annual economic conference in Aix-en-Provence this weekend.

European travel shares rallied in the spring on bets the continent’s traditional summer holiday season would mark at least some recovery from the pandemic, which has decimated the industry. The stocks have since hit a rocky patch amid a resurgence of travel rules.

Covid Variant Weighs on Travel Rebound, Airports CEO Warns

Portugal and Spain are among the latest to impose restrictions on visitors from the U.K., a key source of tourism revenue, where the daily infection rate is climbing. In places like France, vacation-goers are overwhelmingly planning local jaunts.

ADP’s de Romanet said he’s somewhat heartened by an increase in travel through the French capital’s Orly airport, where traffic last week reached about 50% of 2019 levels. In contrast, the Paris-Charles de Gaulle international hub is stuck around 28% or 29%, he said.

“We are unfortunately still very, very behind” pre-pandemic levels, de Romanet said. Prospects for trans-Atlantic travel are clouded by uncertainty about U.S. rules for European travelers, he added.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran on Friday warned the delta variant could lead to a new increase in infections, threatening to “spoil the holidays and spoil the summer.” It already represents close to a third of positive cases in France, increasing by almost 75% in a week, he said during a visit to a vaccination center.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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