2022 was the year European aviation weathered the storm, with the year closing on 9.3 million flights: 3.1 million more than last year, even if still 1.8 million fewer than 2019.
That represents a solid 83% of 2019 traffic, achieved despite the Omicron spike at the start of the year, and the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, which continues to have huge socioeconomic impacts on all aspects of the European economy including aviation. In spite of these twin shocks, however, traffic steadily recovered to 86% of 2019 by May, with similar monthly traffic levels ever since.
Our Analysis Paper digs into the big numbers to track that recovery across the whole of 2022 for every aspect of European aviation, revealing that beneath the global numbers, there is wide traffic variation across airlines, airports, ANSPs and States. Leading the airline recovery in 2022 were the low-cost carriers, overall 85% of 2019 with two top performers in Ryanair (109% of 2019) and Wizz Air (114%); while Europe’s top airports mostly struggled to recover more than 83% of 2019 traffic, Istanbul iGA led the way in first place and around 100% of 2019 levels for most of the year; and at the State level, some of Europe’s smaller or classic holiday destination countries proved the most resilient in recovering to close to or even beyond pre-pandemic levels.
As we move into 2023 and beyond, we are 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. We expect 2023 total traffic will reach 92% of pre-COVID levels, with full recovery from the pandemic to take place in 2025.