Cirium data reveals European countries recovering fastest from pandemic

View of the terminal area at a European airport.
Photo Credit: Tanathip Rattanatum via Pexels

As the aviation industry continues on the path to recovery, aviation analytics firm Cirium have revealed how flight levels in each of the European countries have recovered following the pandemic.

Europe in the pandemic era

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on air travel in Europe, with passenger numbers and flights plummeting as countries imposed travel restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

According to Eurostat, the number of passengers carried by air in the EU-27 fell by 79.2% in 2020 compared to the previous year. This represents a loss of approximately 1.7 billion passengers.

The decline was most severe in April 2020, when passenger numbers fell by 98% compared to the same month in 2019.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated that the European aviation industry lost over $41 billion in 2020 due to the pandemic.

This represents a significant blow to the industry, which plays a vital role in the European economy, providing jobs and facilitating trade and tourism.

Airlines in Europe were forced to ground their fleets and implement cost-cutting measures, including layoffs and salary reductions. Many airlines also received government aid to help them weather the crisis.

For example, in France, the government provided a €7 billion aid package to Air France-KLM, while in Germany, Lufthansa received a €9 billion aid package.

The pandemic also led to a significant reduction in flights. According to Eurocontrol, the European air traffic management organization, the number of flights in 2020 was down by 55% compared to 2019.

The decline was most significant in April 2020, when the number of flights fell by 90% compared to the same month in 2019.


The decline in air travel had a significant impact on airports, which saw a sharp drop in passenger numbers and revenue. Many airports were forced to close terminals or reduce their operating hours.

For example, London City Airport closed for several months during the pandemic, while many other airports in Europe reduced their operating hours.

The pandemic also had a significant impact on the tourism industry, which relies heavily on air travel. Many popular tourist destinations in Europe saw a significant drop in visitors, leading to a decline in revenue for businesses in the tourism sector.

Cirium data of European recovery

Flight analysis from Cirium, the aviation analytics firm, reviews the recovery of flights from each European country and shows how each nation has bounced back from the pandemic. 

The study reveals the number of flights that departed last year compared to 2019 levels, with key findings being:

  • 42 European countries and regions ranked
  • UK in 29th position with departures in 2022 being 25% down on 2019 levels
  • The UK recorded over 1,086,833 departures in 2019, but in 2022 the figure fell to 816,854
  • Ireland performed better than the UK, with 2022 departures being only 14% below pre-pandemic levels
  • Only two European countries saw last year’s departures exceed pre-pandemic levels – Albania (18%) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (14%)
  • Greece, Portugal and Iceland neared pre-pandemic levels, with departures being only 2%, 4% and 5% down respectively 
  • Ukraine suffered the largest fall in flights, with 2022 departures 85% down on 2019 levels
  • Despite European sanctions, flights from the Russian Federation were only down 20% of 2019 levels – meaning flight levels recovered faster than in the UK.

Breakdown by country

For individual country analysis, see the below table:

Source: Cirium data
By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
4 Min Read
You Might Also Enjoy