Air traffic is expected to return to pre-Covid-19 levels no earlier than 2025 said air navigation group Eurocontrol, which is also forecasting that activity in Europe this year will be 50 percent of pre-crisis levels.
Eurocontrol analysts attribute the slow recovery to travel restrictions and health crisis developments.
Based on its four-year forecast and its baseline scenario, Eurcontrol expects 5.5 million flights in 2021 – or half of 2019 levels with a “good increase” expected in the second half of the year.
“While the crisis continues, the trend is moving upwards and there is hope of some recovery this summer,” Eurocontrol said. However, pre-pandemic levels (2019) are not expected before 2025.
According to Eurocontrol Director General Eamonn Brennan, since January, air traffic has been “hovering around” 35 percent of pre-Covid flights, increasing to 39 percent in May, expected to reach 57 percent in August, and 70 percent in December under a baseline scenario.
That would mean however that vaccination campaigns succeed across Europe and that countries and global regions coordinate to ease travel restraints by the first quarter of 2022, with more long-haul flows starting to return.
Meanwhile, the group’s “optimistic” scenario based on countries easing restrictions sooner than expected, predicts stronger increases in the peak June-July period, reaching 79 percent of 2019 levels by the end of 2021.
Brennan adds that despite the restrictions, there is a “massive underlying demand for air travel” in the region. “Traffic scenarios show some recovery this year (2021 will probably be at 50 percent of 2019 traffic) – very dependent on state restrictions and success in fighting Covid-19,” he said.
On the down side, Eurocontrol’s “pessimistic” outlook projects air traffic at 51 percent of 2019 levels in October-November should there be new Covid-19 variants and additional restrictions.