Low-cost air traffic witnessed its first drop in 15 years, with 4,600 flights a day in November 2008 compared to 4,900 in November 2007, according to Eurocontrol, the European body for air traffic control.
In 2008, the total number of flights in Europe was 10 million - an increase of only 0.1% compared to 2007. Eurocontrol says this is the first time in 5 years that the increase in the number of flights has been so low.
Average daily traffic in Europe in 2008 was up on average by 200 flights a day. Major European markets, in particular Italy, the UK and Spain saw significant declines in traffic (respectively -2.7, -1.7% and -2.1%). But Eastern Europe, particularly Turkey and Poland continued to see overall growth in traffic (Turkey: 8.3% and Poland: 9.8%).
These annual figures mask a strong downturn in the last two months of the year. In December, traffic overall fell by 7% and three-quarters of countries saw declines.
After 3 years of strong growth, business aviation traffic has gradually fallen since July. In December 2008 there were 1,450 business flights a day, compared to 1,730 in December 2007 - a 16% fall.
David McMillan, Director General of Eurocontrol said: “2008 was a difficult year for air transport, and 2009 is set to be even tougher. However, demand in the longer term is still set to rise substantially with traffic surging to 18 million in 2030. This is no time to lose sight of the long-term challenges and goals, because the challenges ahead continue to require decisions and actions today.”