UK airspace faces busiest ever day as big summer getaway begins | Travel

UK air traffic controllers are expecting to handle more than 8,800 flights on Friday – the busiest day on record for UK airspace – while millions take to the roads as the summer school holidays begin for many pupils.

A record 2.4 million UK holidaymakers will be heading overseas, according to the travel association Abta.

Airports in the south-east are expecting a very busy weekend with more than 500,000 passengers expected to depart from Heathrow, 335,000 from Gatwick, 136,000 from Stansted and 85,000 from Luton.

However, an earthquake – said to have been up to a magnitude of 6.7 – south of the Turkish city of Bodrum and east of the Greek island of Kos may disrupt travel plans for some holidaymakers.

Air traffic controllers are expecting to manage a record 770,000 flights in UK airspace over the summer, 40,000 more than last year, the BBC reported.

The UK’s National Air Traffic Control Service (Nats) has warned its ability to deal with the surge is being stretched.

Its director, Jamie Hutchison, told the broadcaster: “In the last few weeks we have already safely managed record-breaking daily traffic levels, but the ageing design of UK airspace means we will soon reach the limits of what can be managed without delays rising significantly.”

Families heading for the seaside as schools break up this weekend might want to load up on audiobooks, podcasts and brush up on the rules of “I spy”, as experts warn that roads could be even more packed than usual, with many families choosing to holiday in the UK because of the impact of Brexit.

About 9 million motorists will take to the roads for the start of the school summer holiday. Saturday will be the busiest day of the weekend for UK getaway traffic, with 3.4m journeys made, according to the RAC. There will be 2.8m trips on Sunday, while those trying to beat the rush by leaving on Friday morning may find themselves in just as much of a jam, with up to 2.5m cars expected to vie for space with commuters.

Traffic chaos is customary at the start of the school holidays – with 37m trips regularly made in the first two weeks.

And confidence is high among the domestic tourism industry. According to Visit Britain more than half (55%) of accommodation providers and nearly three-quarters (73%) of visitor attractions in England expected their performance in 2017 to be better than 2016.

This could be attributed to a mix of factors, including the exchange rate, the convenience of holidaying at home and certainty of budgeting and costs, it said.

An analysis of UK travellers by the travel search engine Sojern found a 25% year-on-year increase in searches and bookings for holidays within the country, something it attributes to the unfavourable exchange rate. Sterling has plummeted by 13% against the dollar and 9% against the euro since last June’s referendum.

Polkerris beach in Cornwall. Along with Devon, the county is the most sought-after destination for Britons choosing to holiday at home. Photograph: Alamy

Research by home-sharing platform Airbnb found that four out of five Brits were choosing to holiday in the UK this year, with Devon and Cornwall the most sought-after staycation destinations. Both areas have seen Airbnb guests increase by 100% over the past year, with more than 136,000 guests arriving in Cornwall and 110,000 in Devon. Of these guests, 84% are travellers from the UK.

Unsurprisingly, those driving to Devon and Cornwall can expect the worst of the traffic, according to the RAC, with long tailbacks inevitable, particularly in the south-west on the M5, which is the main route to the coast.

For those deciding to go abroad, Spain remains the top destination for UK travellers, with the Balearic and Canary islands leading the way, while bookings to Portugal, Greece, Italy and France are also strong, according to Abta.

The Mediterranean still dominates the family market, but the association’s members reported strong growth for Bulgaria and Croatia among those seeking summer sun.

Destinations popular with those travelling further afield include Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico, with Florida keeping its spot as the number one long-haul family choice.

European cities such as Barcelona, Paris, Rome and Amsterdam are leading the way as city break destinations for families seeking culture and architecture.

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