Continuing the trend reported in the last report, the recovery after the 2008 financial crisis led to a new record high of 9.25 million flights in 2019 at EU27+EFTA airports (
). Passenger numbers also peaked in 2019, with more than 800 million passengers flying from EU27+EFTA airports. This passenger growth was driven by increased flights, the use of larger aircraft and a record load factor of 83.3%. The combination of these factors led to the number of passengers per flight increasing by 51% in 2019 compared to 2005. In addition, with longer-distance flying continuing to grow more quickly than short-distance, the passenger kilometres flown nearly doubled. The volume of cargo transported from EU27+EFTA airports increased by 60% between 2005 and 2019, which was less than the increase in passengers (
Passenger travel came almost to a halt in early 2020 as COVID-19 spread around the world and restrictions were put in place curtailing travel and grounding flights. The number of daily flights in Europe fell to just 12% of 2019 volumes in April 2020 (
). A recovery was short-lived during the summer of 2020 as further waves of the pandemic arrived leading to more lockdowns. With the roll-out of vaccination programmes, Europe saw a rapid recovery of tourism and travel during the summer of 2021, which was consistent with high forecasts, though still with relatively little medium- to long-haul traffic. The recovery was unbalanced with some Mediterranean countries exceeding 2019 flight counts, while some northern countries remained at 50-60% of 2019 levels. Late 2021 saw another traffic downturn, triggered by the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
In response to the pandemic in 2020, airlines rapidly switched focus to repatriating stranded people and moving urgent cargo. Indeed, all-cargo airline operators and business aviation largely escaped a decline in flights during 2020 and 2021, and consequently roughly doubled their market share (
). This does not take into account a significant number of passenger aircraft that were adapted for cargo use, while still being classified as ‘traditional scheduled’. Domestic flights accounted for a larger share of the market, as they were less restricted than international travel. This was particularly relevant for countries such as Norway with its challenging geography and dispersed population that has a well-developed domestic aviation market.