Air Freight News

New EUROCONTROL 2021-2027 forecast expects traffic recovery to 2019 levels by the end of 2023

Oct 15, 2021

Recovery to the 2019 number of flights in Europe could occur as early as 2023, according to a new forecast issued by EUROCONTROL. This forecast contains three scenarios and both the ‘baseline’ and ‘high’ scenarios show recovery to 2019 levels during the course of 2023, while this is delayed in the ‘low’ scenario until 2027. It updates and extends the forecast made in May 2021, before the summer season.

Eamonn Brennan, Director General EUROCONTROL, commented “Last year we had only five million flights but this summer has been very encouraging, with traffic close to our previous ‘high’ scenario and to airline expectations. As a result we expect to see about 6.2 million flights this year – still 44% fewer than we had in 2019. We are optimistic about traffic recovering to 2019 levels earlier than anticipated, with the baseline scenario indicating 9.8 million flights in 2022, just 11% down on 2019. But we must be aware that there are still significant downside risks that could affect the recovery”.

The High scenario envisages the vaccination campaign continuing both within Europe and globally, with reliable vaccines that continue to be effective, including against variants. With a coordinated inter-regional approach, travel restrictions are relaxed, with most inter-regional flows restarting by the middle of 2022. Business travel recovers quickly in this scenario.

The Baseline scenario is similar but with flows outside Europe recovering rather more slowly (partly as the result of a lack of a coordinated inter-regional approach) and with business travel only recovering to pre-COVID levels in 2023.

The Low scenario considers the impact of several downside risks, such as slow/patchy vaccination rates, the need for new vaccines as a result of variants, the reintroduction of lockdown and similar measures, the continuation or re-imposition of travel restrictions, economic risks, including high energy prices and a long term drop in people’s propensity to fly.

The traffic figures refer to the number of flights, including both passenger and cargo. Recent experience has been that the recovery in the number of passengers is lagging behind the increase in the number of flights.

These scenarios were also used to revise and extend the monthly forecast produced in June 2021. This new monthly forecast shows a continuation of recent positive trends, in particular during the holiday period in December 2021.

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