Published on June 11th, 2021 | by Mark Dwyer


Eurocontrol Briefing on the Impact of COVID19 on Ireland

The Aviation Intelligence Unit at Eurocontrol has published a briefing document detailing the impact of Covid-19 on air traffic in and out of Ireland. The main findings are:

  • Total flights lost since 1 March 2020: 282,000 flights
  • Current flight status: 181 daily flights or -80% vs 2019 (7-day average)
  • Traffic forecast: 43% of 2019 in 2021 & 71% in 2022
  • GDP: +2.6% in 2021 & +3.1% in 2022 (vs. previous year)
  • Busiest airport: Dublin with 136 average daily flights (-81% vs. 2019)
  • Busiest airline: Ryanair with 39 average daily flights (-88% vs. 2019)

The document also makes three traffic predictions. The first assumes that the vaccine is fully rolled out in 2021 and on that basis traffic is predicted to return to 2019 levels by 2023. If the full vaccine rollout is delayed until next year, traffic would not return to 2019 levels until 2024. The final prediction assumes lingering infection rates, either through new variants or other unforeseen events. In this scenario, traffic would only return to 76% of 2019 levels by 2024.

In a separate release from Eurocontrol covering all of Europe, Eamonn Brennan, Director General Eurocontrol said, “It is very clear that there is massive underlying demand for air travel so, as travel restrictions ease, we can expect a good increase in traffic. Our baseline scenario indicates that the number of flights should rise from 39% of 2019 levels in May to 57% in August. Traffic has been hovering at around 35% since January, so we’re looking at around 5.5 million flights for the full year, which is 50% of 2019.

However, if more States relax their restrictions sooner and fully implement procedures such as the EU’s Digital COVID Certificate as soon as possible, then our optimistic scenario could see the network handling 69% of 2019 traffic levels in August. Naturally, there will be significant variations linked to individual States’ travel restrictions, so some parts of the network might perform better than others.”

This new short-term monthly forecast for the period June to December 2021 is based on three scenarios. The vaccine progress and the relaxation of State measures on non-essential travel are the key drivers determining the forecasting of travel levels between the baseline projection for the network (Scenario 2), the optimistic projection (Scenario 1) and the pessimistic projection (Scenario 3).

Eurocontrol summarises the situation between now and the end of December 2021 as follows:

  • Scenario 1 assumes widespread vaccination take-up across the European network by summer 2021 coupled with a coordinated easing of travel restraints, and the resumption of a few long-haul flows. This scenario is aligned with the airlines’ plans for the summer months built on the pent-up demand effect, particularly for the VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) market.
  • Scenario 2 assumes widespread vaccination take-up across Europe and coordinated easing of travel restraints being reached by Q1 2022 between global regions, with more long-haul flows starting to return.
  • Scenario 3 envisages persistent restrictions over the coming years owing to patchy vaccine uptakes and/or renewed outbreaks of new virus strains, with passenger confidence negatively impacted.

Eurocontrol’s monthly traffic scenarios produced in April 2020, September 2020 and January 2021 have shown a high degree of accuracy. Eamonn Brennan explained, “On 28 January 2021, we predicted that the total number of flights handled by the European network would about 39% of 2019 levels in May, which was precisely what occurred. It’s very difficult to forecast numbers at the moment as there are so many variables at play, but we’ve been pretty close consistently since the start of the pandemic. We are developing these numbers in close consultation with individual airlines across a large sample of airlines and market segments.”

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About the Author

Mark is an airline pilot flying the Boeing 737 for a major European airline. In addition he is also a Type Rating Instructor, Type Rating Examiner and Base Training Captain on the B737. Outside of commercial flying Mark enjoys flying light aircraft from the smallest 3 Axis microlights up to heavier singles. He is also an instructor and EASA Examiner on single engines and a UK CAA Examiner. He flies the Chipmunk for the Irish Historic Flight Foundation (IHFF). Mark became the Chairman of the National Microlight Association of Ireland (NMAI) in 2013 and has overseen a massive growth in the organisation. In this role he has worked at local and national levels. In 2015, Mark won ‘Upcoming Aviation Professional Award’ at the Aviation Industry Awards sponsored by the IAA. Mark launched this website back in 2002 while always managing the website, he has also been Editor and Deputy Editor of FlyingInIreland Magazine from 2005 to 2015.

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