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Air traffic comes back strongly in July; Ryanair tops out

eurocontrol

Air traffic in European airspace exceeded Eurocontrol’s “optimistic” scenario in July, as flight numbers reached 65 per cent of 2019 levels.

The European air traffic manager had made a baseline forecast of 52 per cent, and its worst-case scenario was 46 per cent on June 1.

“Just exceeded our best-case scenario,” says Eurocontrol director general Eamonn Brennan on Twitter, adding that data is “looking good” for August too.

Eurocontrol cited the rising number of vaccinations against Covid-19 as well as the relaxation of restrictions to arrivals in many countries as driving the increase.

However, To exceed the “optimistic” scenario in August, flights would need to be above 69 per cent of 2019 levels, based on the June forecast.

Already traffic for the week ending 1 August was nearing that point, Eurocontrol data shows, hitting 68.3 per cent of 2019 levels at 23,899 flights per day.

Ryanair was by far the busiest airline in terms of flight numbers during that week, averaging 2,175 flights per day. In terms of passengers, this means 9.3 million in July, and that amounted to around two-thirds of its pre-crisis levels, at a load factor of 79 per cent.

That was more than double the numbers achieved by any other carrier, aside from Turkish Airlines at 1,301. EasyJet was next at 1,074, followed by Air France (896), Lufthansa mainline (824), KLM (726) and Wizz Air (617).

Wizz Air also saw a crisis-high of 3 million in July at a load factor of 79 per cent.

Wizz Air has said it expects passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels in August amid a steady climb in summer holiday bookings despite the remaining Covid-19 pandemic restrictions across Europe.

Pre-pandemic, around 85 per cent of the flights tracked by Eurocontrol were commercial airline passenger operations, with the rest accounted for by all-cargo, business aviation and non-scheduled services.

In financial terms, much of the current reporting season did not reflect this uptick in fortunes, given the April-June period was still a weak one in passenger traffic terms.

There were some hints of recovery, however, with Air France-KLM and Lufthansa Group both noting that cash flow had turned positive during the period, and Aeroflot reporting that domestic passenger traffic exceeded the level of 2019 by nearly 18 per cent.

Outlook has, however, substantially improved across the industry. This is visible in airline passenger capacity outlooks for the current quarter, in which  widespread recovery momentum is being seen, according to Eurocontrol.

Air France-KLM says it expects capacity to be at 60-70 per cent of 2019 levels in the third quarter, with European major budget carrier Wizz Air forecasting 90-100 per cent in July-August. Lufthansa Group is eyeing 50 per cent capacity, while IAG is more cautious, forecasting capacity at 45 per cent of 2019 levels.

Eurocontrol’s 41 member states cover most of Europe but do not include Russia.

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