Prepared for traffic volatility
The COVID-19 pandemic turned 2020 into a year like no other. Marginal traffic downturn in the first quarter went into freefall as states closed their borders and introduced lockdown measures to reduce transmission rates. By year-end, FABEC air navigation service providers (ANSPs) handled fewer than 2.7 million en-route flights in 2020 compared with 6.2 million in 2019. In response to the unpredictable, fast-changing demand, FABEC ANSPs initiated a series of measures to ensure the skies remained open to support essential medical and repatriation flights, a growing amount of cargo services during the most difficult weeks of the pandemic, as well as handling military traffic.
Since spring 2021 traffic has come back slowly but the recovery is very volatile in terms of time, locations, and number of flights. While Eurocontrol’s forecasts provide a linear return to 2019 traffic levels by 2024–26 the reality shows that the recovery is neither linear nor is it a given that total pre-pandemic European traffic levels will be reached at all. FABEC is therefore preparing for the future on two tracks. On the one hand, future-oriented activities such as the training of air traffic controllers or investments in digitalisation are being driven forward. On the other hand, cost-cutting measures are consistently under review.