EUROCONTROL Expects 9.3 Million Flights in 2022: Challenges & Successes Ahead

LONDON – It has been mentioned by EUROCONTROL on April 6 that they are expecting yearly traffic for 2022 to increase to 9.3 million flights.

Are we seeing an end to the pandemic in the Aviation sector?

The 9.3 million expected flights equate to 84% of what the sector saw in Europe during 2019, which was just before the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off.

In 2019, the sector saw 11.1 million flights, which was a new record for yearly traffic within EUROCONTROL and is still yet to be broken.

It is highly likely that the 11.1 million record will be broken within the next 5 years as the aviation sector, especially within Europe, begins to recover to a more normal state.

Much like the recent news of a well-recovering Norwegian carrying nearly 1 million passengers, just in March 2022, which is very welcome news for the airline after having a very rough past few years.

Norwegian nearly went bankrupt and has since disbanded its Norwegian Long Haul division but seeing record levels of passenger numbers is showing very positive signs for the carrier staying around for time to come.

Not only this but starting to see other airlines’ quarterly financial figures on the rise, is all great news.

The Director-General Is Trying to Be Optimistic Despite Negative Factors at Play…

Commenting on the expected levels of traffic, EUROCONTROL Director-General, Eamonn Brennan said, “Aviation has continued to recover well over the last few weeks, and there has been a steady climb from 68% in January rising to 79% by the start of April compared to 2019 levels, even factoring in the impact on the network and on fuel prices of the unprovoked aggression by Russia against Ukraine.”

As we can see from Brennan’s initial statement, the fact that we are starting to get much closer to the 2019 pre-pandemic levels of traffic is a significant positive factor for the aviation sector within Europe, despite the horrifying scenes that we are witnessing in Ukraine from Russia.

Of course, Russia has been severely sanctioned for its actions by many Western countries, and as such Russian air carriers have been banned from flying to/from/within many European countries and some other intercontinental countries as well.

Brennan continued, “Airlines are adding lots of capacity, and some airlines are already outperforming their pre-pandemic levels. People are showing that they are really keen to fly – many for the first time since before the pandemic began.”

“Hitting 90% or more of 2019 traffic at peak summer moments is firmly on the cards, and we expect holiday destinations and some other parts of the network to exceed 100% of their 2019 levels.”

As part of the Ukraine crisis and sanctions against Russia, the world across many sectors and not just aviation, is experiencing heightened fuel and oil prices.

On top of this, and more recently, many airports especially some major airports in the United Kingdom, are being heavily hit with staff shortages, which is partly because of some staff sickness, but also during the pandemic, many employees were made redundant as many companies could not afford to continually pay wages and keep staff with the sector being as badly hit as it was from the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic when many Governments blocked non-essential travel to reduce the risk of the infections spreading.

Adding to his statement, Brennan said, “Clearly, however, there are still some downside risks related to continued geopolitical tensions that could further impact fuel prices and economic conditions, as well as the possibility of new COVID variants.”

“We’re also seeing staff shortages in parts of the industry, particularly at airports in key roles such as airport screeners or ground handlers, and this needs to be carefully managed.”

“Should any of these factors come into play, traffic could slide towards the levels envisaged in our Low Scenario.”

The Scenarios…

As part of this statement, EUROCONTROL has also shown three different scenarios of what they expect the best and worst outcomes are for this year’s level of air traffic within Europe.

These three different scenarios were generated in close collaboration with airlines, dived into planned capacity levels and the latest actual data as well as historical data that has been produced by EUROCONTROL’s Network Manager.

The first scenario is what they have called “The Base Scenario”, which is where EUROCONTROL envisages seeing traffic levels returning to around 90% of the 2019 pre-pandemic levels by summer 2022 and will remain at that level until the end of the year.

The second scenario is called “The Low Scenario”, which, as described by Eamonn Brennan, sees a slower recovery by summer 2022 to a maximum of 83% of 2019 traffic levels, with some geopolitical and economical risks posing a drop in this expected level.

The third and final scenario is called “The High Scenario”.

As the name suggests, EUROCONTROL will see rapid growth in air traffic levels within Europe to 95% of the 2019 levels during the summer season and will continue to rise towards the year-end towards the 100% mark of traffic levels pre-pandemic.

All-in-all, the recent news that we are seeing coming out of the aviation industry is very positive news for many of the carriers, agencies, and groups that make up the industry and shows that there is still so much more room for the sector to grow.

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