EUROCONTROL Five-Year Forecast 2020-2024

Traffic not expected to reach 2019 levels until 2024 at earliest
Airplane passenger looking out of a window

EUROCONTROL has released a new forecast looking at the possible evolution of air traffic in Europe over the coming 5 years.

In the most optimistic scenario, traffic is forecast to return to 2019 levels by 2024. However, in the second scenario (most likely), 2024 traffic would only be at 92% of the 2019 figure. In the third scenario, traffic in 2024 would be 75% of the 2019 figure and would not reach numbers seen in 2019 until 2029.

“Even in the most positive scenario, we do not expect a recovery to 2019 levels before 2024. There is a very real prospect that this recovery could take even longer, perhaps to as far out as 2029. This is a catastrophic picture for the aviation industry and shows clearly why it is so important for States to take consistent and coherent measures to support the aviation industry and make passengers feel safe to fly again.”

Forecast for *Europe 2020-2024
Actual and % change compared to 2019

*Europe = ECAC 44 Member States
**Forecast 2020 based on scenario 2

The forecast is based on three headline scenarios,

  • Scenario 1 – Vaccine Summer 2021 
    Vaccine widely made available for travellers (or end of pandemic) by Summer 2021, with traffic only returning to 2019 levels by 2024.
  • Scenario 2 – Vaccine Summer 2022 
    Vaccine widely made available for travellers (or end of pandemic) by Summer 2022, with traffic only returning to 2019 levels by 2026.
  • Scenario 3 – Vaccine not effective
    Lingering infection and low passenger confidence, with traffic only returning to 2019 levels by 2029.

The forecast shows that the evolution of the aviation sector is strongly dependent on how soon an effective vaccine is made widely available and by levels of public confidence.

Commenting on the timing of this publication, Eamonn Brennan added,

Vaccine Summer 2021

Vaccine widely made available for travellers (or end of pandemic) by Summer 2021. Recovery to 2019 levels in 2024.

From mid-2021:

  • Enough testing facilities for passengers. Relatively good passenger confidence. Some travellers still reluctant to fly (elder leisure, business class travelers).
  • Airlines, especially LCCs, reasonably well able to invest and re-hire once demand returns.
  • Some long-haul flows restarting quicker than others (eg. North-Atlantic first).

Vaccine Summer 2022

Vaccine widely made available for travellers (or end of pandemic) by Summer 2022. Recovery to 2019 in 2026?

From mid-2022:

  • Enough testing facilities for passengers. Relatively good passenger confidence. Some travellers still reluctant to fly (elder leisure, business class travelers).
  • Airlines, especially LCCs, reasonably well able to invest and re-hire once demand returns.
  • Some long-haul flows restarting quicker than others (eg. North-Atlantic first).

Vaccine not effective

Lingering infection and low passenger confidence. Recovery to 2019 level in 2029?

  • Vaccine widely made available for travellers by Summer 2022, but uptake is patchy.
  • Difficult for airlines to operate as pre-COVID-19: some regions are experiencing renewed outbreak phases, not at the same time, not with the same severity.
  • Demand is bouncing back for 60%-70% of the travellers but reluctance to fly for rest (fear and/or alternatives): permanent drop in propensity to fly.

“This is a required input for States subject to the EU Performance Scheme in support of their obligations.  Forecasting is never easy and of course, on this occasion it is an even bigger challenge due to the very volatile environment. It comes with greater caveats than normal due to the evolving COVID-19 situation."

For more information, please consult our forecast document, its region definition annex and a statistical table.

Files

EUROCONTROL Five-Year Forecast 2020-2024
EUROCONTROL Five-Year Forecast 2020-2024 - Region Definition
EUROCONTROL Five-Year Forecast 2020-2024 - Traffic Tables
EUROCONTROL Five-Year Forecast 2020-2024 - Traffic Tables