Eurocontrol predicts a 3 percent decrease in the number of European flights in 2009 following sharp falls
Giovanni Bisignani inaugurates the IATA aviation and environment display at Rome's Fiumicino Airport
Tue 27 Jan 2009 – Eurocontrol, the organization responsible for air navigation across 38 European member states, reports the number of flights in Europe last year totalled around 10 million, representing an increase of just 0.1% compared to 2007. This is the lowest increase in five years, with major European markets, in particular Italy, Spain and the UK seeing significant declines in traffic, although Eastern Europe continued to see strong overall growth. IATA, meanwhile, is forecasting that global CO2 emissions from aviation will fall 4.5% in 2009.
After six years when growth averaged 3% per year, Eurocontrol predicts a decrease of 3% in the number of flights in 2009, a fall that is expected to mainly impact on Western and Central Europe. However, Eurocontrol still expects a return to a substantial growth in traffic in the longer term.
“2008 was a difficult year for air transport, and 2009 is set to be even tougher,” remarked David McMillan, Director General of Eurocontrol. “However, demand in the longer term is still set to rise substantially with traffic surging to 18 million in 2030. This is no time to lose sight of the long-term challenges and goals, because the challenges ahead continue to require decisions and actions today.”
The average daily traffic in Europe in 2008 was up by just 200 flights, from 27,470 in 2007 to 27,676 in 2008, but, according to Eurocontrol, masks a sharp downturn in the last two months of 2008. In December, overall traffic fell by 7% with three-quarters of member states reporting declines.
Low-cost airline traffic saw its first drop in 15 years, with 4,600 flights a day in November 2008 compared to 4,900 the previous year. After three years of strong growth, business aviation traffic has gradually fallen since July. In December 2008, there were 1,450 business flights a day compared to 1,730 in December 2007, a fall of 16%.
In its short-term forecast posted in December, Eurocontrol said there seemed no chance of a bounce-back to the traffic counts that had been previously forecasted for 2010.
Its medium-term seven-year forecast predicts there will be 12.8 million movements in what it calls the Eurocontrol Statistical Reference Area in 2014, 29% more than in 2007 (approximately +/-10% in the low and high growth scenarios), which represents an average growth of 3.7% per year. This is slightly above the previous 2007 forecast that predicted a growth of 3.4% per year, which, says, Eurocontrol, is due in part to the effects of the EU-US Open Skies agreement and growth in business jet travel it had previously anticipated.
Longer term, the Eurocontrol forecast is for between 16.5 and 22.1 million flight movements in 2030, between 1.7 and 2.2 times the traffic in 2007, and representing an average annual growth of between 2.3% and 3.5%. The growth is expected to be distributed unevenly in time and across regions. Percentage growth should continue to be stronger in Eastern Europe where the market is relatively less mature, with Turkey and Poland joining the top 10 busiest states in Europe by 2030. In absolute figures, it is the bigger airspaces that will see the highest numbers of additional flights and the busiest states will continue to add the most traffic to the network.
The long-term forecast shows growth being faster in the earlier years and slowing down later due to increasing maturity of the market, pressure on higher ticket prices (for example, rising oil and CO2 prices) and increasing congestion leading to traffic constraints at airports.
Delivering a speech last week to mark the inauguration of IATA’s aviation and environment display that has moved to Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, its Director General and CEO, Giovanni Bisignani, predicted global CO2 emissions from aviation would fall 4.5% in 2009. Part of this will be due to an anticipated 2.5% reduction in traffic this coming year.
The rest (2%) will be as a result of the air transport industry’s strategy to address climate change and improve environmental performance, he said. “Airlines are investing in fuel-efficient aircraft and retiring older ones. The numbers are impressive. In the first 11 months of 2008, 1,037 new aircraft – with improved fuel efficiencies of 20-30% – were delivered. These replaced 881 inefficient old aircraft, which were parked.
“In 2008 alone we identified and saved close to15 million tonnes of CO2, equal to $5 billion.”
Bisignani also predicted European carriers will lose $1 billion this year, ten times that in 2008, with Asian carriers posting the biggest loss of $1.1 billion.