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Slightly slower growth than previously forecast, but capacity challenges remain

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This report presents the February 2019 update of the EUROCONTROL seven-year flight and service units forecast. It replaces the previous forecast report published in October 2018.

The February 2019 update of the EUROCONTROL seven-year forecast predicts slightly slower growth rates over the seven-year horizon than the previous forecast publication from October 2018 – but movements are expected to continue to grow, reaching 12.67 million flights by 2025.

The predicted growth reduction reflects an economic outlook that remains fragile in early 2019, with several significant downward revisions to economic forecasts in Germany, Italy, France and the UK, inter alia, as the forecast was being prepared.

Nevertheless, 2018 marked a new record year in terms of traffic volumes (+3.8% IFR movements compared with 2017, reaching 11.00 million flights), with European airlines increasing both load factors and seats per flight, resulting in record passenger numbers. However, a dampening effect was exercised in 2H2018 by increasing or volatile fuel costs, geopolitical tensions outside Europe and a weakening European economy, as well as increasing pressures on airlines.

This results in a flight forecast for Europe of slightly slower growth rates over the seven-year horizon than the previous forecast publication (October 2018), as follows:

2019

+2.8% (±1.5 pp) growth is forecasted, reaching 11.31 million flights. This represents a lower growth rate than the one recorded in 2018, a downwards revision consistent with the economic situation. Compared to the previous forecast, 2019 shows a wider uncertainty (±1.5 pp), driven by a lower low-scenario reflecting strong downwards risks in terms of a worse-than-expected Brexit, and continuing pressures on airlines. The forecast assumes a similarly positive mitigation of likely capacity issues over the summer via the measures to be put in place by NM for summer 2019, mirroring the impact of the “NM/4ACCs” measures of 2018.

2020

3.0%* growth to reach 11.65 million flights (±1.2 pp), similar growth as in 2019 (*note that the 3% is based on total number of flights in a leap year, i.e. with 1 extra day of traffic: comparing on a 365-day basis, the growth figure stands at 2.7%)

2021-2025

1.8% per year average growth, a slowdown from an average of 3.2% per year (2016-2020) that reflects slower expected economic growth coupled with the continuing increase in aircraft size, with growth developing from 11.86-12.67 million flights in the baseline over that period.

Each STATFOR 7-year forecast is part of an inclusive process, with input data and assumptions produced by the STATFOR team and presented to stakeholders together with the flight and service unit forecasts resulting from these inputs. There’s a period for stakeholder comments – and our responses to them – via the STATFOR OneSky Teams platform, followed by the release of the forecast a month later with its three scenarios – baseline, low and high. This forecast was trickier than usual owing to the significant uncertainties relating to Brexit, and indeed the risks associated with a disorderly Brexit could dramatically change the outcome.

Read the whole document and annexes here