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Are flights around Europe returning to normal after borders reopen?

After coronavirus lockdowns that brought civil aviation to nearly a complete halt air traffic is slowly resuming in Europe as borders reopen, but tens of thousands of jobs are still hanging in the balance.

Are flights around Europe returning to normal after borders reopen?
AFP

The lockdowns saw air travel plunge by 94.3 percent in April compared with the same month last year, when measured by kilometres travelled by paying passengers. 

IATA, the leading trade association for the aviation industry, believes the recovery in air travel is likely to be determined not only by the pace of restrictions being lifted but also by the extent health worries keep people  from travelling.

IATA expects the recovery to begin in domestic air travel, then extend to continental travel and finally, at the end of the year, to long-haul inter-continental flights.

It sees air travel returning to its pre-coronavirus levels only in 2023.

Most travel restrictions within Europe have been lifted and starting Wednesday nationals from 15 countries are allowed into most EU countries.

The United States, Russia and Brazil — where the virus is still spreading quickly — were left off the list.

In Europe, during the week of June 15-21, an average of 7,706 flights were recorded each day, a 78 percent drop from the same week last year, according to Eurocontrol which manages European airspace.

The airlines operating the most flights were Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, Wizz Air, the Norwegian regional airline Wideroe, and Air France.

The busiest airports were Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Amsterdam-Schiphol, London-Heathrow and Istanbul.  

The most popular destinations in Europe

Lisbon was the top destination for tickets booked in the first half of June, beating out Paris, Amsterdam, Athens, Rome, Madrid, Frankfurt, Vienna, Barcelona and London, according to data released Monday by ForwardKeys, an outfit which analyses trends in air travel.

Last year during the same period, London topped reservations, and its relegation is due to quarantine measures, according to the firm.

IATA's chief economist Brian Pierce said nations which have imposed quarantines have seen drops in traffic similar to a complete ban on flights. 

IATA has instead urged authorities to instead adopt sanitary measures like requiring travellers to wear masks, conducting temperature checks and requiring health declarations.

Worst yet to come? 

Government support measures for the industry “have saved thousands of jobs and are enabling airlines to keep connectivity going,” said IATA's regional vice president for Europe, Rafael Schvartzman, last month.

“But I'm afraid the worst may be yet to come,” he said, as airlines rely on the summer holiday travel season to earn profits that carry them through the lean winter months.

“There will be no summer cushion” this year, he said.

IATA expects European airlines to suffer losses of $21.5 billion this year compared to a profit of $6.5 billion last year. It believes 6 to 7 million jobs linked to aviation are at risk.

Job cuts 

Airlines and other businesses in the industry have already begun to cut jobs.

In recent days alone, Airbus has unveiled 15,000 job cuts — 11 percent of its workforce — as it seeks to adjust to the plunge in the commercial aviation business and as airlines eye delaying taking delivery of new aircraft.

SSP, the British owner of food outlets in railway stations and airports worldwide including sandwich chain Upper Crust and Italian takeaway Caffe Ritazza, said it may cut up to 5,000 UK jobs as the coronavirus pandemic keeps customers away.

Airport services group Swissport that provides check-in agents and cargo-handlers for airlines announced it was eliminating 4,000 jobs in Britain.

Swiss duty-free shop operator Dufry, which has more than 2,400 shops and 31,000 employees across the globe, said it plans to reduce its spending on staff by up to 35 percent.

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IN IMAGES: Spain’s ‘scrap cathedral’ lives on after creator’s death

For over 60 years, former monk Justo Gallego almost single-handedly built a cathedral out of scrap materials on the outskirts of Madrid. Here is a picture-based ode to his remarkable labour of love.

IN IMAGES: Spain's 'scrap cathedral' lives on after creator's death
File photo taken on August 3, 1999 shows Justo Gallego Martinez, then 73, posing in front of his cathedral. Photo: ERIC CABANIS / AFP

The 96-year-old died over the weekend, but left the unfinished complex in Mejorada del Campo to a charity run by a priest that has vowed to complete his labour of love.

Gallego began the project in 1961 when he was in his mid-30s on land inherited from his family after a bout of tuberculosis forced him to leave an order of Trappist monks.

Today, the “Cathedral of Justo” features a crypt, two cloisters and 12 towers spread over 4,700 square metres (50,600 square feet), although the central dome still does not have a cover.

He used bricks, wood and other material scavenged from old building sites, as well as through donations that began to arrive once the project became better known.

A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The building’s pillars are made from stacked oil drums while windows have been cobbled and glued together from shards of coloured glass.

“Recycling is fashionable now, but he used it 60 years ago when nobody talked about it,” said Juan Carlos Arroyo, an engineer and architect with engineering firm Calter.

Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid.
Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid. Photo: (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

The charity that is taking over the project, “Messengers of Peace”, hired the firm to assess the structural soundness of the building, which lacks a permit.

No blueprint

“The structure has withstood significant weather events throughout its construction,” Arroyo told AFP, predicting it will only need some “small surgical interventions”.

Renowned British architect Norman Foster visited the site in 2009 — when he came to Spain to collect a prize — telling Gallego that he should be the one getting the award, Arroyo added.

Religious murals on a walls of Justo's cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Religious murals on a walls of Justo’s cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The sturdiness of the project is surprising given that Gallego had no formal training as a builder, and he worked without a blueprint.

In interviews, he repeatedly said that the details for the cathedral were “in his head” and “it all comes from above”.

Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The complex stands in a street called Avenida Antoni Gaudi, named after the architect behind Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia basilica which has been under construction since 1883.

But unlike the Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral of Justo Gallego as it is known is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as a place of worship.

Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral's completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral’s completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

‘Worth visiting’

Father Angel Garcia Rodriguez, the maverick priest who heads Messengers of Peace, wants to turn Gallego’s building into an inclusive space for all faiths and one that is used to help the poor.

“There are already too many cathedrals and too many churches, that sometimes lack people,” he said.

“It will not be a typical cathedral, but a social centre where people can come to pray or if they are facing difficulties,” he added.

A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

Father Angel is famous in Spain for running a restaurant offering meals to the homeless and for running a church in central Madrid where pets are welcome and the faithful can confess via iPad.

Inside the Cathedral of Justo, volunteers continued working on the structure while a steady stream of visitors walked around the grounds admiring the building in the nondescript suburb.

“If the means are put in, especially materials and money, to finish it, then it will be a very beautiful place of worship,” said Ramon Calvo, 74, who was visiting the grounds with friends.

FIND OUT MORE: How to get to Justo’s Cathedral and more amazing images

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