EUROCONTROL: Europe’s air traffic may not reach pre-COVID levels until 2029
Air traffic in Europe might not return to its pre-COVID levels until 2029, Eurocontrol has said. In a report published on last Friday, the Brussels-based air traffic management agency said the number of flights in European airspace between January and April this year was down 65 per cent compared with the same period in 2019. Depending on vaccine rollouts and the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against new variants, the body predicted three different models for the future of European air travel, Euronews reported.
The first scenario foresees traffic returning to 2019 levels by 2024, assuming widespread vaccination take-up across the European network by summer 2021 coupled with a coordinated easing of travel restraints, and the resumption of a few long-haul flows. This scenario is aligned with the airlines’ plans for the summer months built on the pent-up demand effect, particularly for the VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) market. However, this first scenario is considered optimistic given the current state of vaccine rollout progress, with a coordinated approach across States less likely to be reached in the coming months.
The second scenario remains most likely, whereby 2024 traffic recovers to 95% of the 2019 figure based on widespread vaccination take-up across Europe and coordinated easing of travel restraints being reached by Q1 2022 between global regions, with more long-haul flows starting to return.
The third, most pessimistic scenario assumes traffic in 2024 will only reach 74% of the 2019 figure, with a full recovery not before 2029. This scenario envisages persistent restrictions over the coming years owing to patchy vaccine uptakes and/or renewed outbreaks of new virus strains, with passenger confidence negatively impacted.
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