2022 was the year European aviation weathered the storm, with the year closing on 9.3 million flights, said Eurocontrol in its analysis of the previous 12 months.
That is 3.1 million more than 2021, even if still 1.8 million fewer than 2019.
Eurocontrol said that leading the airline recovery in 2022 were the low-cost carriers, overall 85 per cent of 2019 with two top performers in Ryanair (109 per cent of 2019) and Wizz Air (114 per cent).
While Europe’s top airports mostly struggled to recover more than 83 per cent of 2019 traffic, Istanbul iGA led the way in first place and around 100 per cent of 2019 levels for most of the year.
As we move into 2023 and beyond, Eurocontrol said it was confident that the recovery will continue to strengthen as capacity and staffing issues are progressively tackled, “even if at a slightly slower pace than we had expected before Russia’s war of aggression”.
The organisation expects 2023 total traffic will reach 92 per cent of pre-Covid levels, with full recovery from the pandemic to take place in 2025.
Eamonn Brennan, director general of Eurocontrol, said: “The numbers have turned in aviation’s favour. Predictions of pent-up demand were correct and people have shown their desire to take to the skies again as the pandemic has come under control, with summer peaks of 90 per cent or more.
“There’s still considerable volatility and the recovery is uneven across sectors, but airlines and airports were able in 2022 to rebuild their balance sheets and continue to invest. Looking ahead, 2023 will pose the biggest challenge in terms of coping with capacity issues and keeping delays down that the network has faced in over a decade.
“Delays and punctuality need to improve across the network as we get closer to full traffic levels, and connectivity with Europe and especially to the Far East is still considerably lagging pre-pandemic levels. And plans to make aviation sustainable must accelerate if we are to meet our ambitious sustainability targets.
“Nevertheless, and despite the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine, our sector has proven its resilience and we are optimistic about the future, with European air traffic set to recover fully by 2025.”
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