Henrik Hololei notes that “The Russian market is going to be closed for a very long time” and, as I write this, it is hard to see how things will be resolved. Putin has singlehandedly taken his country into a war that is having a devastating impact on Ukrainians – and is also isolating Russia from the international community. Our thoughts are very much with Ukraine and our Ukrainian colleagues.
For most of the rest of Europe, 2022 is seeing a rapid recovery from the effects of COVID. We expect network traffic this summer to be at around 90% of the 2019 level and, in some places, that level will be surpassed. As Iacoppo Prissinotti notes, the focus is very much on minimising the level of delays. COVID brought out the saying “Build Back Better”; this summer will be a key indicator of whether that is being achieved across the EUROCONTROL network, or whether some have not grasped the opportunity of the break in traffic.
Despite the strong current surge in traffic, the effects of COVID and of the war in Ukraine will have much longer-term implications. EUROCONTROL recently published a traffic forecast looking ahead to 2050, the target date for aviation achieving NetZero. Although we expect traffic to grow by 44% by 2050 – taking us up to 16 million flights a year (in 2019 there were just over 11 million flights) – our predictions made before the pandemic anticipated that this level of traffic would be achieved by around 2040, a full ten years earlier.
This delay, much longer that the length of the COVID crisis, reflects the significant economic impact and its effect on air travel. However, 16 million flights a year is still a vast number – and much more than we can manage at present. Air traffic management (ATM) has to improve dramatically over the coming decades, with much more digitisation in order to increase both capacity and efficiency – while still maintaining our high levels of safety.