EUROCONTROL has released its fourth Challenges of Growth study, which looks ahead to the state of air transport in 2035, or even 2050. It is the first such study since 2008 and it reflects the impact of the economic downturn on European air traffic.
Growth is expected to return, with the most likely scenario showing by 2035, and despite the current economic situation, that traffic in Europe will pick up again significantly with an increase in the number of flights to 14.4 million, which is 50% higher than in 2012. This predicted growth is slower than that forecast five years ago, as well as having been delayed for several years.
Plans to increase airport capacity have also been scaled back, with an increase in capacity by 2035 of just 17% (compared to 38% by 2030 reported five years ago). As a result, there will be an increasing number of airports that are running at, or close to capacity.
That means that, in the most likely scenario, 1.9 million flights in 2035 would not be accommodated – 12 % of total demand. This scenario would also see more than 20 airports operating at 80% or more of capacity for six or more hours per day, compared to just three such airports in 2012. This would drive ATFCM (air traffic flow and capacity management) delay up to around 5-6 minutes, taking it from a minor or intermittent to a permanent, major contributor of delay. To put this number in context, the current 2014 EU target for en-route ATFM delay is only 0.5 minutes per flight.
As Network Manager, EUROCONTROL works to reduce such delays and the study sets out a number of ways in which they might be mitigated. The study, which incorporates a number of detailed, technical reports, also looks at how the industry is addressing a number of the challenges it now faces; this includes the need to build resilience to climate change, which is expected to affect aviation in a number of ways.
The summary report, together with the detailed technical reports, can be found here.