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Forecast: Europe’s Air Traffic Not Expected to Reach 2019 Levels Until 2024 at Earliest

A new forecast looking at the possible evolution of air traffic in Europe, in the post-Covid-19 era, over the coming 5 years has been released by Eurocontrol, a pan-European, civil-military organisation dedicated to support aviation in Europe.

In the most optimistic scenario, air traffic is forecast to return to 2019 levels by 2024.

However, in the second scenario (most likely), 2024 traffic would only be at 92 percent of the 2019 figure. In the third scenario, traffic in 2024 would be 75 percent of the 2019 figure and would not reach numbers seen in 2019 until 2029.

“Even in the most positive scenario, we do not expect a recovery to 2019 levels before 2024. There is a very real prospect that this recovery could take even longer, perhaps to as far out as 2029. This is a catastrophic picture for the aviation industry and shows clearly why it is so important for States to take consistent and coherent measures to support the aviation industry and make passengers feel safe to fly again,” said Eurocontrol Director General Eamonn Brennan.

Vaccine essential for aviation sector’s evolution

Eurocontrol’s forecast shows that the evolution of the aviation sector is strongly dependent on how soon an effective vaccine is made widely available and by levels of public confidence.

Scenario 1 – Vaccine Summer 2021
Vaccine widely made available for travellers (or end of pandemic) by Summer 2021, with traffic only returning to 2019 levels by 2024.

Scenario 2 – Vaccine Summer 2022
Vaccine widely made available for travellers (or end of pandemic) by Summer 2022, with traffic only returning to 2019 levels by 2026.

Scenario 3 – Vaccine not effective
Lingering infection and low passenger confidence, with traffic only returning to 2019 levels by 2029.

“This is a required input for States subject to the EU Performance Scheme in support of their obligations. Forecasting is never easy and of course, on this occasion it is an even bigger challenge due to the very volatile environment. It comes with greater caveats than normal due to the evolving COVID-19 situation,” Brennan said.

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