We chart what has been a partial but crucially sustained traffic recovery in Europe over 2021. Traffic started the year at 36% of 2019 levels in January, and recovered solidly over the summer, thanks to mass vaccinations and the EU Digital COVID Certificate, to around 70%, hitting a two-year high on 27 August 2021 of 26,773 flights. Holiday flights stretched into autumn with traffic rising to 81% in late October, and despite Omicron and additional health & safety requirements for many destinations, December saw traffic at 78% of 2019 levels. Overall, annual traffic across the European aviation network reached 56% of 2019 levels.
We do not expect this growth to unwind in 2022, with traffic still on track to recover by end-2022 to 70-90% of 2019 levels – even if right now the evolving pandemic is pushing traffic much closer to our baseline forecast, not our most optimistic one.
However, the financial and sociologic impacts across the EUROCONTROL network remain huge, and not vastly better than the first year of the pandemic:
- 1.4-1.5 billion passengers fewer than 2019 (2020: -1.7 billion);
- 4.9 million fewer flights (2020: -6.1 million);
- €18.5 billion in European airline losses (2020: -€22.2 billion);
- 55% of pre-pandemic flight choice across Europe.