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Eurocontrol Highlights Extent of European Capacity Cuts

A Turkish A330-300 in Dusseldorf (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fabian Behr)

European air traffic management (ATM) organization Eurocontrol is reporting a weekly average decline in year-on-year movements close to 90 percent in the region. The body which acts as a support for both civil and military use of European airspace has 41 member states and 2 comprehensive agreement states (Israel and Morocco). The focus of the intergovernmental organization is to support its member states and stakeholders “to make aviation in Europe safer, more efficient, more cost-effective and with a minimal environmental impact.”

Eurocontrol’s research capability is a source for current European airline and country responses to the COVID-19 pandemic situation. There is also significant data available on the impact of the crisis on individual airlines and airports compared to the same comparative day in 2019. For example, the site reports that the daily variation in traffic at Heathrow Airport on April 14 was 90 percent lower compared to April 16, 2019, the worst for the U.K.’s hub airport since the decline first hit double figures on March 15. The picture was similar at London Stansted with a decline of 89.8 percent, but the worst affected was London Gatwick when, on the same day, the variation was 99 percent.

Of Eurocontrol’s member states the least affected in terms of daily variation in traffic is Norway, which recorded a drop of -53.7 percent on April 15. Slovakia and Bulgaria were the next least affected member states with drops of 73.9 and 74.4 percent respectively. Twenty members of the organization reported declines greater than 90 percent for the same day with Albania seeing only 2.8 percent of flights in 2020 compared to the same day in 2019.

The hit on airlines has been felt by major airlines in the region with TAP/Air Portugal operating only 0.5 percent of flights on Wednesday compared to the previous year. Eurocontrol data shows that 25 European airlines were operating less than 10 percent of their previous year’s flights with most big-name carriers amongst them. With a number of European countries extending lockdown periods and only a few relaxing some restrictions on shop and school openings, it is not expected that there will be a significant change to the current situation for some time.

A consequence of the drop in aircraft movements across Europe has been the temporary change in which airline could claim the title of the largest carrier in the region. Due to the grounding of most of Ryanair’s operation, Forbes reported from OAG data that Hungary’s Wizz Air is currently the airline operating with more seat capacity than any other in the region. The Independent has estimated that since March 1 approximately 100 million passenger journeys to, from and within Europe have been lost due to flight cancellations.

John Flett


  • John Flett

    John has always had a passion for aviation and through a career with Air New Zealand has gained a strong understanding of aviation operations and the strategic nature of the industry. During his career with the airline, John held multiple leadership roles and was involved in projects such as the introduction of both the 777-200 and -300 type aircraft and the development of the IFE for the 777-300. He was also part of a small team who created and published the internal communications magazines for Air New Zealand’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff balancing a mix of corporate and social content. John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management. John has held the positions of course director of an undergraduate commercial pilot training programme at a leading London university. In addition he is contracted as an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and has been a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.

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