Eurocontrol May Cut Air Traffic Forecast, Citing Travel Restrictions

Schiphol Amsterdam Airport
Credit: Schiphol Amsterdam Airport

PARIS—Eurocontrol may cut its air traffic outlook for September because of COVID-19 travel restrictions imposed across the European region. 

The organization said the latest European NOP 2020 Recovery Plan, published Aug. 14, indicated that traffic could be close to 60% of 2019 levels on peak days in September. “However, there is an increased chance of this projection being downgraded as it is highly dependent on the evolution of State restrictions which are now being imposed/reinstated,” Eurocontrol said in its latest update Aug. 19.  

Eurocontrol said Aug. 14 had been the peak traffic day since March 18, with 18,244 flights, 51% of 2019 levels.  

Traffic to Mediterranean destinations—Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey—was now stable after previous growth, Eurocontrol said. 

Ryanair was the busiest carrier with 1,450 flights Aug. 18, flat compared with Aug. 4. EasyJet came next with 896 flights and a 3% increase; followed by Turkish Airlines at 621, down 3%; Wizz Air at 532, up 2%; Air France at 431, up 7%; and Lufthansa at 421, down 4%. 

“Despite noticeable schedule increases recorded on holiday destinations as of the beginning of August, the steady traffic increase has now stopped since Aug. 7 and there is increased uncertainty with regard to the September/October period as a result of recent airline announcements,” Eurocontrol said.  

The organization cited Ryanair’s move to cut September and October capacity by 20% and easyJet’s confirmation it would close three UK bases. Ryanair blamed weak forward bookings related to uncertainty over COVID-19 restrictions when it announced its capacity cut. Among other restrictions being put in place, the UK has removed France, the Netherlands and Spain from its safe list of “travel corridors,” requiring arrivals from those destinations to self-isolate for 14 days. Tourism and air transport industries have condemned the UK’s decision. Italy has ordered mandatory COVID-19 tests for arrivals from Croatia, Greece, Malta and Spain while Germany also requires tests for arrivals from at-risk zones.  

European airlines and airports have said the inconsistency of travel restrictions across the bloc is harming traveler confidence and demand for air travel. 

The main source of traffic flow is intra-European, Eurocontrol said, with 13,641 flights Aug. 18 and domestic flows dominating. But traffic flows between Europe and Russia increased drastically—up 373%—over the past two weeks, Eurocontrol said. The flow between the UK and Spain is one of the busiest non-domestic flows but it had started to decrease compared with two weeks ago, Eurocontrol said.  

Amsterdam was the busiest airport, with 713 flights on Aug. 18, followed by Paris Charles de Gaulle with 669 and Frankfurt with 486.  

Helen Massy-Beresford

Based in Paris, Helen Massy-Beresford covers European and Middle Eastern airlines, the European Commission’s air transport policy and the air cargo industry for Aviation Week & Space Technology and Aviation Daily.