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Coronavirus in Europe: See how flights have plummeted over the continent amid COVID-19 lockdown

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By Matthew Holroyd  & Marta Rodriguez
These images show how flights over European air space have plummeted amid the coronavirus lockdowns
These images show how flights over European air space have plummeted amid the coronavirus lockdowns   -   Copyright  Eurocontrol

This is the comparison that shows the dramatic impact the coronavirus lockdown has had on flights across European airspace.

The data, published by Eurocontrol, shows there was a fall of 88 per cent on flights compared with last year.

There were just 350 flights on 29 March over European airspace between 8 am and 12 pm, against more than 2,876 on the equivalent Sunday in 2019.

Drag the central bar left and right to compare

The trend continued into early April, with Spain recording only 280 flights on 8 April, 95 per cent fewer than the same date in 2019.

Portugal suffered a loss in air traffic of 94 per cent compared to last year, with just 119 flights.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), air traffic fell by 14.1 per cent worldwide in February, compared to a year ago.

The IATA say this is the largest drop in traffic since the September 11 attacks, as both domestic travel collapsed in China and government-imposed travel restrictions heavily reduced international demand in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Without a doubt this is the biggest crisis that the industry has ever faced,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

But data shows that while Europe's airspace has emptied of traditional and low-cost traffic, cargo flights maintained a steady progress last month.

On 28 March, market segments for all cargo flights fell by just 2 per cent, compared to the previous year's date, as countries try to maintain supply lines during the COVID-19 crisis.

'This is like nothing we have seen before'

A report from Airports Council International (ACI) for Europe has detailed the "unprecedented impact" that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the continent's airports.

ACI EUROPE say that 106 million passengers were lost in March, equating a loss in total passenger traffic by 59.5 per cent.

On 31 March alone, the number of passengers had reduced by 97.1 per cent, compared to the same day in 2019.

"This is like nothing we have seen before," said Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI EUROPE.

“In the global financial crisis, it took Europe’s airports 12 months in 2009 to lose 100 million passengers."

"With COVID-19, it just took 31 days – the month of March – for that same passenger volume and more to vanish.”

ACI EUROPE say that 93 airports in the continent have shut and estimate that the overall impact of the industry could be a loss of €23 billion in revenues.

Their projections, based on new advice from the European Commission, suggest that there could be 873 million fewer passengers for Europe's airports in 2020.

While many airports are managing on temporary employment schemes, Jankovec says that there is an urgent need for "flexibility" on EU regulations, which could help further reduce costs.

“Airports are local jobs machines. They very often are the largest employment site in their communities, regions or even at national level."

"Restoring air connectivity must be at the forefront of the EU’s exit and recovery strategy."