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Passenger flight choice continues to fall behind the recovery in air travel

Posted: 14 December 2021 | | No comments yet

In the latest EUROCONTROL data, flights have returned to 75 per cent of 2019 levels, yet for passengers the choice of flights to a variety of destinations remains low.

Passenger flight choice continues to fall behind the recovery in air travel

EUROCONTROL tracks the connectivity available to passengers through a set of connectivity indicators. These are people-focused, covering the whole journey, door-to-door: including travel to the airport, available flight connections and cancellations. They are calculated at the district-to-district level. When we combine into country averages as shown in the graph, we weight by population, so that good connections from and to a country’s population centres count more.

The ‘flight choice’ indicator in the graph shows how many options you have, on average, to get to your destination. Roughly, it’s how many options you would see in a booking screen: direct and connecting flights, using different airports and at different times on the day of travel, but ignoring the same flight offered by different carriers and filtering out long connection times.

Credit: EUROCONTROL

The four data points for 2019 (we calculate the indicators on quarterly samples), show that people in the Netherlands have the widest choice of flights for an average journey within Europe. This is because many of them can easily access Dutch airports, but some can also access airports in neighbouring countries, so they have plenty of options. Bulgarian residents are at the other end of the scale, with fewer of them having good access to busy airports.

As COVID-19 spread, connectivity collapsed by 2020Q2 (measured by ‘flight choice’ in June 2021). Many routes were unavailable, and flight options were few for those routes that were served: the graph shows most countries with an average ‘choice’ of around one flight. The summer 2021Q3 recovery was short-lived, as it was for flights.

In 2021, the recovery has been more sustained. However, flight choice continues to lag behind the recovery in flights, on average reaching 54 per cent of 2019Q4. For example, in Bulgaria flights reached 73 per cent of 2019 in late November 2021, while flight choice was only 59 per cent of 2019. Similarly, the rich choice available to residents of the Netherlands remains more restricted: in 2021Q4, flights were at 79 per cent of 2019 but flight choice was only 57 per cent of 2019. Austria and Italy both have flight choice at 52 per cent of 2019Q4, while flights are significantly higher at 60 to 65 per cent and 78 to 79 per cent respectively. For passengers, a full recovery in connectivity remains in the distance.

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