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‘Limited pick-up’ in air traffic forecast for Easter

Easter will see only a “limited pick-up” in flying and air traffic in June could remain 70% down on 2019, European air traffic management organisation Eurocontrol has warned.

Eurocontrol issued its latest air traffic forecast warning: “The situation is quickly deteriorating.”

Eamonn Brennan, Eurocontrol director-general, reported: “Demand for air travel is greatly suppressed and airlines are dramatically reducing their capacity.”

He warned: “Even April is expected to perform very poorly, with only a limited pick-up for Easter.”

“It is a complete disaster for an industry that is already on its knees.”

Eurocontrol noted: “States across Europe are imposing stricter travel restrictions in response to the latest waves of Covid and risks associated with new variants, which strongly discourage air travel unless for essential reasons.”

The organisation’s latest forecast presents two possible scenarios for the months to June, one based on a partial relaxation of the tightening travel restrictions in Europe and the other on a continuation at the current level.

Brennan said: “It is clear the months of February and March will be exceptionally low except for cargo, some business traffic and skeleton schedule services.”

The situation post-Easter “remains unclear”, he said.

But Brennan argued: “It is reasonable to expect the epidemiological situation will have improved in many European states by the second quarter and the most-vulnerable citizens across Europe will have been vaccinated despite delays in the [vaccine] roll-out.”

He said: “This could lead to the possibility for non-essential air travel to become more accessible, which would facilitate a small improvement during the second quarter, followed by a larger recovery in the summer.”

If that is the case, Brennan said: “We could see [air traffic at] levels around -55% of 2019 by June.”

However, he argued: “It is also reasonable to expect that, even if the situation has improved, many states may choose not to relax national travel restrictions, which will severely curtail demand and any possibility for air travel to improve until the summer.”

In that case, Brennan warned: “We’re still looking at -70% by June.”

And any “reasonable improvement” in air travel would be delayed to the third quarter of the year, he said.

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