Coronavirus: European Air Traffic Plummets 80%

According to the latest traffic figures released by EUROCONTROL, the number of flights within Europe is down by more than 80%. On the day chosen for analysis (April 8) there was an 87% reduction equating to just over 4,000 flights, which is 27,000 fewer than the same day in 2019.

EUROCONTROL said that network movements are now currently averaging 3,864 flights per day compared with the more than 25,000 usually expected at this time of year. Through analysis of its own data, the organisation said that for April 8, the busiest airport was Frankfurt, closely followed by Leipzig/Halle. These two facilities are home to AeroLogic, DHL Aviation and Lufthansa Cargo, which explains why they were so busy.

This time last year, the cargo market accounted for only 3% of total traffic, whereas now, it accounts for around 21%. The numbers of freight operations largely appear to have remained close to 2019 levels, but the increase in the proportion is down to a reduction in scheduled traffic which accounted for 85% in 2019 but now has been reduced to only 36%.

As for traffic between Europe and the United States, by April 8, the number of flights between the two continents was down by 83% compared with 2019, with some 83 daily services on average over the last week. This comes partly as a result of the travel ban imposed by the US which saw non-citizens being refused entry to the country, but also the general decline in demand for air travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A growing trend within the industry is the operation of cargo flights on passenger aircraft. Some carriers, like Air New Zealand have begun exploring the option of removing the seats from aircraft to allow for more space to carry cargo. EUROCONTROL was able to calculate that between 5-6% of all non all-cargo flights stipulated “CARGO” in their flight plans, indicating that a great number of airlines are pivoting towards cargo in a bid to help with the COVID-19 crisis in their respective countries.

With regard to the airlines, easyJet, TAP Air Portugal and Brussels Airlines had no operations at all on April 8. Ryanair was down 98% while Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways and KLM saw around 95% reductions in flights.

Europe’s largest airports are now managing 90% fewer flights compared to last year. Manchester, Barcelona/El Prat, Warsaw/Chopin, Nice/Cote D’Azur and Geneva are all managing 96% fewer flights compared to 2019.

To do its part to lessen the burden on air operators, EUROCONTROL is allowing carriers to defer €1.1bn worth of air traffic control fees for February through to May.