Air Traffic Data Reveals Flight Traffic Waves At Vital Tourist Destinations And Shift In Airline Strategy

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Spire Aviation data reveals COVID-19’s impact on tourism and travel, an industry worth 10% of the global GDP.

Examining air traffic at a few of Europe’s major travel destinations helps illustrate COVID-19’s impact on the travel and tourism industry. Some airports have fared better than others, while airlines everywhere are adapting their strategies to evolving demands. Spire Aviation’s flight tracking data recorded the changes in illuminating detail.

According to McKinsey, tourism made up 10% of the global GDP in 2019 and was worth almost $9 trillion, making the sector nearly three times larger than agriculture. COVID-19 has caused an unfathomable crisis for the travel and tourism industry. International tourist arrivals are projected to plunge by 60% to 80% in 2020, and tourism spending is not likely to return to pre-crisis levels until 2024.

Evolving flight traffic waves in 2020

Examining airport traffic at three of Europe’s major tourist destination airports helps illustrate the pandemic’s impact on travel and tourism.

Flights and tourist numbers have dropped across the globe. While it’s evident that flight stats have fallen, it’s tremendously insightful to study what has worked during the crisis and to understand which airports have seen the minimum drop in traffic. Spire Aviation’s flight tracking data also reveals which of the airports have seen higher rebound in flights across Q1, Q2 and Q3 of 2020.

Total unique aircraft at Paris, Rome and Barcelona – 2020

We analysed the traffic during Jan, Apr and Aug at Paris (CDG), Rome (FCO), and Barcelona (BCN) airports. The number of unique aircrafts that flew from these destinations dropped by an average 90% between Jan and Apr. Interestingly, the rebound trends showed contrasting pictures. Paris had 3.5X more aircraft, whereas Rome and Barcelona had an average 10X more aircraft that flew from these destinations.

Total flights at Paris, Rome and Barcelona – 2020

The number of flights indicates the activity at these airports and passenger movements. Compared to Jan, flights in Apr were down by an average of 90% at all three airports. Again, data revealed a stark contrast in flight activity. Barcelona saw the most significant rebound in the number of flights (17X), followed by Rome and Paris. The number of flights had increased by over 500% in Rome, and by 700% in Paris.

Change in airline network strategy

Studying how an airline adapted its networks in response to changes in capacity and demand helps reveal the full scale of COVID-19’s impact on the airline’s strategy.

We looked at Ryanair’s traffic to understand the routes it flew on three different Fridays in Q1, Q2 and Q3 of this year.

Between Jan and Apr, Ryanair’s network shrunk by 150 fewer airports, a staggering 85% drop in total destinations, and the total number of flights fell by over 95%. The visualisation shows that, in general, routes have thinned due to lower frequencies. High passenger traffic routes with more demand connecting major cities remain, whereas probably less profitable routes have been removed or reduced drastically in the network.

Destinations connected by Ryanair – 2020

On Aug 7th, the summer holiday traffic helped to bring back its network destinations to 183, which was 7 more destinations compared to Jan 3rd. Total daily flights had also rebounded, but not even close to the pre-covid levels.

Flights by Ryanair – 2020

Spire Aviation data recorded the decline and continues to chart the swings in airline activity worldwide. Airlines worldwide are adapting their network and fleet strategies to navigate COVID-19 travel bans, utilise fleet capacity, and meet passenger demands. Satellite powered air traffic data is shedding light on evolving strategies and their effect on the global economy.

Read also:
How Airline Dynamics Have Changed In The US During The Pandemic

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