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Eurocontrol publishes bulletin on air transport trends

European flights increased by 2.9 per cent in February 2019 compared with February 2018 and were above the low end of the forecast. Preliminary data for March provided by Eurocontrol in its Industry Monitor, tailored to maximise interest among ERA airline and airport members, show average daily flights up 2.8 per cent on March 2018.

Eurocontrol Statistics and Forecasts

European flights in February 2019

European flights (ECAC – European Civil Aviation Conference area) increased by 2.9% in February 2019 compared with February 2018 and were above the low end of the forecast published in February 2019. Preliminary data for March show average daily flights up 2.8 per cent on March 2018.

In February 2019, the low-cost segment had the fastest growth and recorded an increase of 4.9 per cent (+353 flights/day) compared with February 2018. The traditional scheduled segment remained stable and was up by 3 per cent whereas the charter segment decelerated from a 5% growth rate in January to a 1.2 per cent growth in February. The all-cargo and business aviation segments decreased by 5.7 per cent and 3.3 per cent respectively.

The top five airlines (with average daily flights and percentage growth year-on-year) in February 2019 were Ryanair (1,811 flights, up 8.1 per cent), Lufthansa (1,335 flights, up 3.9 per cent), easyJet UK (1,321 flights, up 9.2 per cent), Turkish Airlines (1,100 flights, up 0.2 per cent) and SAS (769 flights, up 0.3 per cent).

The airlines which added the most flights to the European network on a daily basis compared with February 2018 were Ryanair (+145 flights), easyJet UK (+116 flights), Lufthansa (+56 flights), LOT, Aeroflot and Alitalia (+40 flights each).

Main contributors to flight growth in Europe in February 2019

Seven states added more than 50 flights per day to the European local traffic (excluding overflights) growth. Germany was the top contributor and added 246 daily flights owing to its internal flow and to its flows to and from Spain, Italy, Turkey, Switzerland and Austria. Spain (excluding Canary Islands) ranked second and added 199 daily flights thanks to its dynamic internal flow but also to its flows to and from Germany, Italy, Austria, and Canary Islands. Italy ranked third and added 169 daily flights to the network thanks to its internal flow which grew 8.4 per cent and to its flows to and from Spain, Germany, Austria, and UK. France ranked fourth and added 106 flights per day owing to its internal flow but also to its flows to and from North Africa (Morocco and Tunisia) and Germany. Austria was the fifth contributor and added 100 daily flights thanks to its flows to and from Spain, Germany and Italy. UK ranked sixth and added 61 daily flights due to its flows to and from Spain, Portugal (excluding Azores), Italy and Ireland. Poland was the seventh contributor and added 54 flights per day due to its flows to and from Ukraine, Germany and the UK.

At the other end of the scale, Sweden saw 55 fewer flights per day owing mainly to its weak internal flow (-36 flights/day).

The top five external partners in average daily flights on flows in both directions were the United States (791 flights, up 1 per cent), the Russian Federation (674 flights, up 5.3 per cent), the United Arab Emirates (346 flights, up 4 per cent), Egypt (256 flights, up 16.9 per cent) and Qatar (206 flights, up 9.8 per cent) (EUROCONTROL/STATFOR, March).

All-causes airline delays in 2018

For the whole of 2018, airline punctuality deteriorated with 75.8 per cent of arrivals punctual compared to 79.7 per cent in 2017. Delays due to airline operations remained the main cause of primary delay, contributing 3.6 minutes to the average delay per flight, a 0.3 minute per flight increase compared to 2017. Airlines reported that en-route ATFM delays increased significantly at 1.7 minutes per flight. Major reasons driving this were ATC staffing issues as well as convective weather in the summer. Industrial action also occurred during the year causing further en-route delays. Reactionary (knock-on) delay added 6.7 minutes to the average delay per flight due to an increase in primary delays (where ATFM en-route delay saw the largest increase). However, its proportion remained stable with a 45 per cent share of total delay minutes. Traffic growth also contributed to delays, average daily traffic increased by 3.8 per cent in 2018 compared to 2017. In fact flight growth would have been higher had the delay situation not contributed to a jump in operational cancellations, which increased to 2.0 per cent (from 1.5 per cent in 2017). Put together, all these factors resulted in an average all-causes departure delay of 14.7 minutes per flight, up by more than 2.3 minutes per flight on 2017 where the average delay per flight was 12.4 minutes (EUROCONTROL/CODA, March).

Other statistics and forecasts

IATA reported that European scheduled passenger traffic (RPK) increased by 7.4 per cent in January 2019. Total capacity (ASK) was up 8.5 per cent and total passenger load factors were down 0.8 percentage point to 79.6 per cent (IATA, 7 March).

ACI reported that overall passenger counts at European airports increased by 4.2 per cent in January 2019 compared with January 2018. This was the lowest monthly performance since summer 2016. Overall aircraft movements rose by 3.9 per cent (ACI Europe, 19 March).


Oil prices hit a monthly average of €59 per barrel in March 2019 from €57 per barrel in February 2019. 

In its March short-term energy outlook, EIA forecasts Brent crude oil prices to average $63 per barrel in 2019 (from $61 per barrel in its February forecast) and $62 per barrel in 2020 (unchanged vs. February forecast) (EIA, 14 March).


The European Commission and Qatar have reached an aviation agreement, which aims at upgrading the rules and standards for flights between Qatar and the EU, setting a new global benchmark by committing to strong, fair competition mechanisms, and including provisions not normally covered by bilateral air transport agreements, such as social or environmental matters. The agreement includes direct air connections with Qatar to open over the next five years for Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands (EUROPA, 4 March).

There is growing support among EU environment ministers for applying a tax on commercial aviation. The proposal originated from France and the Netherlands and was raised by Belgium at the latest Council of Environment Ministers on 5 March. There is currently no tax on jet kerosene nor VAT on airline tickets while more environmentally-friendly forms of transport, such as rail, are more taxed than air transport. The issue will be further discussed at the Council next session in June. Direct emissions from aviation account for circa 3 per cent of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions and more than 2 per cent of global emissions. By 2020 global international aviation emissions are forecast to be around 70% per cent higher than 2005 (EU Council, 5 March).

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