April 29, 2015

Total flight movements in Europe increased modestly in March – up 0.2 percent compared with a year ago – but the conflict in Ukraine, and the ongoing economic travails in southern Europe continue to dampen business aircraft traffic.

“We had hoped we had grown out of this negative trend,” said Fabio Gamba, CEO of the European Business Aviation Association. “It’s really too early to tell how the year will turn out based on a single month or even quarter, In a given month, you might have a national holiday or some other event that affects the numbers. We prefer to focus on the semester or annual data.”

While the figures from March were an improvement from those for January and February, total flight movements – including departures, arrivals, internals and overflights – rose to 49,565 in March, basically flat from 49,462 in 2014. However, “internal flights” (from one European country to another), increased 2.9 percent, from 33,113 to 34,071. Internal flights represented 68.7 percent of all flights during March. Arrivals into Europe, departures, and overflights all declined in March.

February total flight movements had shown a 3.9 percent year-over-year drop and January flights had been down 4.5 percent.

In terms of traffic in specific European countries, Gamba noted, “The U.K. is doing pretty good.” March average daily flight activity in the U.K.-Ireland functional airspace block (FAB) – the gateway for most North Atlantic flights – was up 1.1 percent. Daily average departures at Farnborough, U.K. rose 4 percent. Other bright spots were the NEFAB (which includes Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Norway), up 3 percent, and the Portugal-Spain Southwest FAB, up 1.2 percent.

“Eastern Europe is the most challenging [region] right now,” Gamba said. FABs that saw the most significant traffic drops included Baltic (Poland, Lithuania) and Danube (Romania, Bulgaria), which border the Ukrainian conflict zone.

Gamba also said regulations and higher operating costs are factors holding back market growth. “In a stable market, costs are having a bigger impact on the bottom line,” he noted, citing consolidation of some business aviation operators as contributing to decreased movements.

The state of business aviation in Europe is among the topics that will be discussed at the upcoming European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE2015), set for May 19 to 21 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Review the EBACE2015 program schedule.