Eurocontrol, the organization managing 90% of Europe's air traffic, has released data that helps to show just how extreme the drop in air traffic has been across the continent. An animation of the data shows an absolutely stunning drop.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), air traffic fell by 14.1%worldwide in February, compared to a year ago. But that was just a small taste of what was to come.
In March and April, the decline was closer to 80 or even 90%, with some countries seeing dramatic declines. Portugal's flights, for instance, declined by a whopping 94%.
"Without a doubt this is the biggest crisis that the industry has ever faced,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
This unprecedented impact meant that over 100 million passenger flights were lost this year, creating a dent of over $20 billion in airlines' income, and creating massive disturbance around the whole of Europe. By the end of the year, up to 860 million passenger flights would be lost.
Of course, Europe isn't the only place to see a massive drop in air traffic. As the pandemic has spread all around the globe, all areas are reporting a substantial drop in flights. Europe, where 10% of the population works in tourism, is feeling this very burningly.
So far, many airports in Europe are managing on temporary employment schemes, but this is not a sustainable solution in the long term.
While many airports are managing on temporary employment schemes, this will also translate to a massive decrease in available jobs, and airline workers are eager to receive governmental support.
"This is like nothing we have seen before," said Olivier Jankovec, director-general of the Airports Council International (ACI) for Europe. “Airports are local jobs machines. They very often are the largest employment site in their communities, regions or even at national level."
"Restoring air connectivity must be at the forefront of the EU’s exit and recovery strategy."
Unfortunately, the airline industry will almost certainly be one of the biggest casualties of the economic fallout of the outbreak. Not only are people far less inclined to travel (and in some cases, outright banned from traveling), but social distancing rules can drastically cut the thin profit margins that many airlines are used to working with. As much as we'd like to think the airline industry will make a rebound soon, it's hard to see a scenario when things get return to normal anytime soon.