Cargo flights stay airborne as European air traffic disappears during pandemic

Virus Outbreak Russia Italy
Virus Outbreak Russia Italy Copyright Alexei Yereshko/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP
Copyright Alexei Yereshko/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP
By Matthew Holroyd
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Data from Eurocontrol shows that the number of traditional and low-cost flights across Europe have significantly reduced since mid-March but cargo flights hardly been reduced.


As Europe's airspace empties amid the coronavirus pandemic, cargo flights have dominated the continent's skies.

Data from the civil-military organisation Eurocontrol shows that Europe has maintained a steady schedule of air freights in an effort to maintain supply lines during the COVID-19 crisis.

On 28 March, market segments for all cargo flights fell by just 2%, compared to the previous year's date, after remaining consistent throughout the month.

By comparison, the markets for traditional and low-cost flights fell by a dramatic 87% and 96% compared to 28 March 2019.

Eurocontrol data also shows that the daily number of scheduled and private (bizjet) flights has also significantly reduced in March, while cargo flights have continued on a normal trend.

Director General Eamonn Brennan says the graph shows "why keeping airspace open continues to be important".

The organisation have also released visualisations that illustrate the decline in all air traffic collapse during March, compared to last year.

#COVID19 Daily update for 30 March. Traffic down 87% on equivalent day last year. Largest 1-day fall in absolute terms with 26,856 fewer flights.

Publiée par EUROCONTROL sur Mardi 31 mars 2020

On 30 March, air traffic had fallen by 86.9% compared to the same date in 2019 - the largest single-day fall in absolute terms, with more than 26,800 fewer flights.

Meanwhile the largest percentage decrease observed for the month was 87.9% on 29 March.

The most severe countries affected on 30 March were Ukraine and Georgia, which both saw a daily traffic variation of more than -96%.

At least 13 other European countries, including France, Italy and Spain, also saw a daily traffic loss of more than 90%

Of the countries in Eurocontrol's network, Norway saw the smallest decrease in daily air traffic by 63.9%.

Meanwhile the daily traffic variation in Moldova on 29 March was 100%.

Eurocontrol say the decline can be explained by a number of factors, including COVID-19, overall economic downturn and the "failure of airlines".

A number of commercial airlines, including EasyJet, have grounded entire fleets due to "unprecedented travel restrictions imposed by governments".

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