Eurocontrol’s Worst Case Scenario Sees Air Traffic Recovering By 50%

In its traffic scenario projections for 2021, Eurocontrol expects to see a 50% recovery in the worst-case outlook for 2021. As the summer season kicks off, European aviation is hoping to see a substantial recovery due to vaccinations and borders reopening. Let’s find out more.

Aircraft landing at dusk Heathrow
After a difficult summer last year, European airlines are excited to see more passengers this year. Photo: Getty Images

Three scenarios

On Tuesday, Eurocontrol issued three scenarios for an aviation recovery in 2021. The best-case outlook sees traffic return to nearly 80% of 2019 levels by December, which depends on a successful complete vaccine rollout in 2021. Another outlook depends on the vaccine rollout stretching into 2022, which will see traffic return to 70% by August of this year.

Eurocontrol’s Worst Case Scenario Sees Air Traffic Recovering By 50%
Source: Eurocontrol

Both of these scenarios will be extremely favorable for airlines, which have struggled to even reach 40% this year. The worst-case scenario occurs if cases continue to rise in 2021 due to either new variants or a slow vaccine deployment. Here, the industry will only see a 50% recovery by December, a very low figure for airlines.

Eurocontrol’s Worst Case Scenario Sees Air Traffic Recovering By 50%
Eurocontrol has been accurate with its projections in the past, making their outlook one to note. Photo: Getty Images

In May, airlines saw only saw 39% of traffic compared to 2019, a severe drop that has dragged on since late last year. In a statement, Eurocontrol Director General Eamonn Brennan said,

“It is very clear that there is massive underlying demand for air travel so, as travel restrictions ease, we can expect a good increase in traffic…However, if more States relax their restrictions sooner and fully implement procedures such as the EU’s Digital COVID Certificate as soon as possible, then our optimistic scenario could see the network handling 69% of 2019 traffic levels in August.”

The current situation

Looking at the circumstances today, aviation is gearing up for two probably scenarios. On the one hand, countries like Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and others, have thrown open their borders to EU and British travelers for the summer. Some have even gone further to include countries like the US and other highly vaccinated or low-risk countries.

This is a good sign for airlines, reducing friction for passengers and opening up many options for the summer. Carriers have been adding capacity wherever they see the opportunity, so expect a robust schedule this summer.

easyjet, summer demand, aircraft reactivated
Low-cost airlines have been quick to lay on extra capacity on markets that are opening up in the short term. Photo: Getty Images

However, there are new risks emerging as well. Germany and France have both restricted travel from the UK and other countries due to the spread of new variants. If the variants continue to spread unchecked and cases rise, the European summer recovery could go into a tailspin, sending the industry into the worst-case scenario.

For now, other countries are pushing on with their border reopening. The coming weeks will provide a clearer epidemiological situation across Europe as travelers begin flying.

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After a bumpy start, the European Union has managed to quickly rescue its vaccination rollout. The bloc has given first doses to 38.4% of citizens, while 18.3% are fully vaccinated, according to Bloomberg. While this is behind the US and UK, the pace continues to grow and cases have been low recently.

For now, European aviation has reason to be cautiously optimistic. However, as with everything during COVID-19, don’t be surprised if things change quickly.

What do you think about the Eurocontrol projections? Let us know in the comments!