European Air Traffic Remains Steady Despite War In Ukraine

Credit: Ryanair

Traffic in the European region reached 73.6% of 2019 levels in the week to March 13, European network manager Eurocontrol said, despite the disruption and uncertainty caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which is having a significant impact on aviation. 

Eurocontrol director general Eamonn Brennan tweeted March 14: “Despite the terrible crisis in Ukraine, week 10 traffic was over 20,000 flights/day, 73.6% of 2019; this was depressed by snow in Turkey.”  

The network manager’s statistics showed a decline of 1.4% week-on-week to an average number of flights per day of 20,080 and a total of 140,562 flights in the week to March 13.  

Ryanair was the busiest operator with an average of 2,116 flights. EasyJet was second with 1,134, and Turkish Airlines was third with 849, which for Turkish represented a 16% decline week-on-week.  

“We’re seeing some large variation on flights through the airspace of countries adjacent to Ukraine, Russia and Belarus,” Brennan previously said March 9.  

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not only creating disruption for those airlines that previously served Ukrainian or Russian destinations, but also those that are now having to avoid Russian airspace, adding extra time and costs to long-haul routes. In addition, rising jet fuel prices pile yet more pressure on airlines.  

IATA’s jet fuel price monitor shows that the jet fuel price had increased by 27.5% week-on-week to $141.7/barrel March 4. In the following week, however, the jet fuel price had fallen to $132.9/barrel by March 11, a 6.2% week-on-week drop.

Data released by ForwardKeys on March 10 showed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had caused an immediate stall in flight bookings to Europe and within Russia domestically.  

The analysis and data specialist said that—excluding Ukraine and Moldova, which closed their airspace, and Russia and Belarus, which were subject to bans—the destinations worst affected were those closest to the conflict: Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. 

Those countries all saw a 30%-50% collapse in bookings in the week following the invasion (Feb. 24-March 2) compared to the preceding seven days, ForwardKeys said. Most other European countries experienced a decline in bookings between 10% and 30%; Belgium, Iceland, and Serbia only suffered single digit drops. Domestic flight bookings in Russia fell 49%, ForwardKeys said.  

The war has been affecting the cargo sector too. German media reported that CargoLogic Germany, which is part of Russia’s Volga-Dnepr group, had been forced to stop operating. The airline could not be reached for comment. A message on its website reads, “Our network is currently being updated.”

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.