Eurocontrol sees flights in Europe slump by 6.6% in 2009

In 2009, the total number of flights in Europe was 9.4 million, a decrease of 6.6% compared to 2008, and the largest annual decline on record, says Eurocontrol.

Traffic fell more severely in the first half of 2009 than in the second half, -8.6% and -4.8% respectively. Average daily traffic in Europe was around 25,800 flights a day, compared to 27,700 in 2008.

All but a few States recorded fewer flights and amongst the busiest States, UK, Spain and the Netherlands recorded slumps of around 10% compared to 2008. Turkey, however, showed a moderately strong growth (+4%) which was driven by both domestic and international demand.

All market segments shrank, with Business Aviation, All Cargo and Charter being most severely hit (nearly -15% compared to 2008). First low-cost, then business aviation returned to a weak positive growth in the last weeks of the year. The largest market segment, “traditional” carriers, is hovering just below 0% growth and only the bad weather has prevented a return to growth in January.

In 2009, on average 7.5% of flights were delayed by air traffic flow and capacity management. This is down from 11% of flights which were delayed in 2008. These delays decreased from an average of 2.3 minutes per flight in 2008 to 1.6 minutes per flight in 2009. This is the lowest delay rate since records began. Turning to all primary causes of delay, as reported by airlines, 49% of all delays were attributed to airlines, with 18% coming from airports, 10% from en-route and 13% from weather.

For 2010, Eurocontrol is forecasting that the number of flights in Europe will grow by a weak 1.7%, compared to a historical average of nearer 4%. “There are signs of economic improvement as some States have exited recession. However, there remain downside risks, for example if the economic recovery stalls. In the current situation, the outlook for 2011 is particularly uncertain and growth is forecast at a below-average of 3.2%”, said David McMillan, Director General of Eurocontrol.

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