European flight numbers are up on this time last year but still not up to pre-pandemic levels, reveals a report by the body responsible for managing European aviation.
The latest weekly overview from EUROCONTROL also contains good news for so-called ‘budget’ airlines Wizz and Ryanair, as well a good showing for Türkiye’s flag carrier Turkish Airlines.
1. Improved but not fully recovered
The European network saw an average of 32,420 daily flights for the second week running in August 2023, recording a 7% increase on 2022’s figures for the same high season period. Nonetheless, flights numbers have not recovered to pre-Covid-19 levels, remaining 6% below the first half of August in 2019. This figure also fell below the control centre’s forecast released in December 2022.
Despite the disappointing flight numbers, EUROCONTROL took more revenue from “en-route charges” (the fees airlines pay for management services that enable them to use European airspace safely) than in 2022. This was partly down to the slight increase in flights and partly due to higher charges.
2. Good news for Wizz, Ryanair and Turkish
Most airlines in the top ten operators by flight numbers did not fly any more flights than the previous week. Still, it’s arguable there was an apparent vindication of Ryanair Group CEO Michael O’Leary’s seeming Musklike strategy to keep Ryanair in the news no matter what controversy it takes. The so-called budget carriers Ryanair (which was top by raw numbers of flights) and Wizz (top by improvement on 2019) came out of the weekly report well, beating 2019’s flight numbers by an additional 27% and 37% flights respectively.
Turkish Airlines also flew 8% more flights than in the same period in 2019. Turkish has a long-held reputation for serving more destinations than other carriers; and great hospitality, with The Points Guy remarking, “they serve some of the best food you are likely to ever taste on a plane.”
Wizz did particularly well, getting into the top three not only for the 2019 window comparison, but also coming third (at +14%) in the weekly capacity improvement ranking, topped by British Airways (+21%), and KLM (+17%).
However, British Airways and KLM remained sadly down by flight numbers compared to 2019, at -11% and -4%.
The worst performance among the top ten airlines for flight numbers compared to the same days in 2019 was Lufthansa, at -18%.
3. Türkiye impresses in airport rankings
Signs are that the Turkish diaspora across Europe have finally after Covid-19 been getting home to visit family. Mirroring Türkiye’s success as a holiday destination, reported by Reuters, as well as reflecting the success of Turkish Airlines, Türkiye’s Istanbul Airport (IST) topped the EUROCONTROL airport ranking for the period, for two out of three data points: average flights (1,516 departures and arrivals) and 2019 comparison (up 15%). Antalya (AYT) also featured in the top ten.
Amsterdam’s Schipol also did well, coming in second in the ranking. France’s Charles de Gaulle came in third. Both these countries have huge Turkish communities.
4. Slow German recovery
Bucking this analysis though, Germany (which has the largest Turkish community in the Turkish diaspora) did badly, with Munich Airport (MUC) bottoming out the top ten at -22% compared to 2019.
Experts have put the slow German aviation recovery down to a range of factors, including higher fees at German airports meaning they are avoided by carriers; and German travellers turning to other means of transport such as trains and cars.
Simple Flying notes that “Every airport except MUC experienced sustained growth compared to last year, with PMI [Palma di Mallorca] recording the least and LHR with the most.
Palma de Mallorca’s success may explain why some locals are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to perceived overtourism.