100 million European air passenger journeys ‘lost’ during coronavirus pandemic

Around 100 million passenger journeys to, from and within Europe have been lost since 1 March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Independent has made the calculation from figures released by Eurocontrol, which coordinates air-traffic control in Europe, together with guidance provided by airlines.

The latest set of statistics reveals the near-total collapse in European air travel because of Covid-19.

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As individual countries have imposed no-fly restrictions, and travellers have been locked down by local restrictions, 90 per cent or more of European passenger flights have been grounded.

Some have been replaced by all-cargo flights, with DHL Express becoming the busiest “airline” in Europe. In the week between 6 and 12 April, it averaged 153 movements per day.

Ryanair is no longer the giant of European passenger aviation. That mantle has passed to the small Norwegian regional carrier, Wideroe, which had 114 flights in the course of a week.

The German national airline, Lufthansa, was in third place with 87, followed by Qatar Airways, which has made a niche business out of repatriation flights. It operated 77 flights between Europe and its hub in Doha.

Turkish Airlines flew 68 operations to take fifth place.

The most stark figure, though, is Eurocontrol’s calculation of the “deficit” in flying: 677,959 flights have been cancelled to, from and within Europe since 1 March.

That corresponds to around 80 million passenger journeys that were not made. During the first few weeks of March, when airlines were operating more or less full schedules, there were a vast number of no-shows – which are believed to account for at least 20 million empty seats on planes.

Assuming a conservative typical one-way fare of £50, the loss in revenue from European passenger journeys in the past six weeks is currently £4bn.

That is a small fraction of the £250bn in lost revenue predicted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for airlines worldwide in 2020.

London’s dominance as aviation capital of the world has been temporarily suspended. The busiest airport anywhere in Europe was Leipzig in eastern Germany, with 185 movements – ahead of Frankfurt, which had 179.

Oslo was in third place (169).

Heathrow airport has lost 90 per cent of its traffic, while Gatwick airport is operating only one flight in 100 compared with a year ago, when it was the busiest single-runway airport in the world.

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