European air traffic management body Eurocontrol reported “clear hope” of a recovery this summer as it issued revised traffic forecasts for the second half of this year.
Air traffic throughout Europe was 61% down on 2019 in May, Eurocontrol reported, but it forecast an improvement to 43% down in August, noting: “The trend [in traffic] is moving upwards and there is hope of some recovery this summer.”
Eurocontrol director-general Eamonn Brennan said: “It is clear there is massive underlying demand for air travel so as restrictions ease we can expect a good increase in traffic.
“Our baseline scenario indicates the number of flights should rise from 39% of 2019 levels in May to 57% in August.”
However, Brennan said: “If more states relax their restrictions and fully implement procedures such as the EU’s Digital Covid Certificate, [we] could see the network handling 69% of 2019 traffic levels in August.”
He noted: “There will be significant variations linked to individual states’ travel restrictions.
“Traffic has been hovering at around 35% since January, so we’re looking at around 5.5 million flights for the full year which would be 50% of 2019.”
Eurocontrol’s latest forecast for June to December 2021 is based on three scenarios. The baseline forecast assumes continuing progress on vaccination in Europe and a coordinated relaxation of restrictions on non-essential travel between global regions by the first quarter of 2022.
A more optimistic scenario assumes widespread vaccination across Europe by the summer, with a coordinated easing of travel restraints and resumption of some long-haul traffic. A third, more pessimistic projection envisages persistent restrictions.
Eurocontrol notes the most optimistic projection “is aligned with airlines’ plans for the summer months”, which suggests these may yet be curtailed,
The organisation’s previous forecasts have turned out to be accurate. Brennan noted that at the end of January “we predicted the number of flights handled by the European network would be about 39% of 2019 levels in May, which was precisely what occurred”.
He added: “We are developing these numbers in close consultation with individual airlines across a large sample of airlines and market segments.”