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The number of international flights to and from the UK in 2021 were down 71 per cent compared to pre-pandemic volumes while domestic flights dropped 60 per cent, according to new research.

Aviation data specialist Cirium’s end of year report reveals there were 406,060 international flights to and from the UK in 2021 compared to 1.4 million in 2019.

UK’s Top 10 international routes 2021
(by number of one-way flights)

1. London Heathrow to New York JFK
2. London Heathrow to Dublin
3. London Heathrow to Amsterdam
4. London Heathrow to Paris CDG
5. London Heathrow to Frankfurt
6. London Heathrow to Athens
7. London Heathrow to Dubai
8. London Heathrow Lisbon
9. London Heathrow to Madrid
10. London Gatwick to Dublin

(Source: Cirium)

Not surprisingly, London Heathrow was the UK’s busiest airport in 2021 with 78,820 flights, followed by Stansted (32,070), Manchester (29,690), Gatwick (25,960) and Luton (19,770).

Heathrow to New York JFK was the largest international route despite US borders only reopening in November. Routes from both London Heathrow and Gatwick to Dublin were also in the UK’s top ten international routes (see panel).

Loganair was the UK’s busiest operator of domestic flights in 2021 with 32,830 flights, followed by easyJet (32,800) and British Airways. In 2019, Flybe was the largest domestic operator with 87,020 flights.

The busiest domestic route, however, was the 31-mile trip between Land’s End and St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly, with Penzance-based Skybus operating 2,330 one-way flights over the course of 2021.

Jeremy Bowen, Cirium CEO, said the report “reveals a dramatic 71 per cent fall in international flights to and from the UK during 2021, as the aviation sector continues its recovery from the impact of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Most on-time airlines globally in 2021

1. ANA (95 per cent)
2. JAL (94 per cent)
3. Aeroflot (91 per cent)
4. LATAM (89 per cent)
5. Delta Air Lines (88 per cent)
6. KLM (86 per cent)
7. S7 Airlines (81 per cent)
8. American Airlines (80 per cent)
9. United Airlines (80 per cent)
10. Saudia (80.24 per cent)

(Source: Cirium)

“Analysis shows UK domestic flights have fared better with a lower reduction of 60 per cent, as the huge pent-up demand for restriction-free flying returns – led by leisure travel followed by the more cautious recovery of business travel.”

The Cirium report also identified the ‘most on-time’ airlines globally in 2021, with Japan’s ANA (95 per cent on-time arrival) and JAL (94 per cent) taking the top two spots in the global carrier category. KLM (86 per cent), in sixth, was the only European airline in the top ten.

Within Europe, Vueling (92.08 per cent on-time arrival) was the most punctual airline over the course of the year, followed by Iberia Express (91.81 per cent), Iberia (91.74 per cent), Aeroflot (90.95 per cent) and Norwegian (90.95 per cent).

Austrian (89.60 per cent), Eurowings (89.48 per cent), KLM (88.25 per cent), LOT (87.75 per cent) and fledgling Italian carrier ITA Airways (86.54 per cent) completed the top ten.

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