European airport capacity shortfall ‘not as bad as feared’

European airport capacity shortfall ‘not as bad as feared’

The airport capacity crunch in Europe will not be as bad as feared, although millions of passengers could still be left without flights, it was reported today.

European airports are set to fail to accommodate 300,000 flights or a gap of 2.5% between demand for flights of 12.7 million and capacity at airports for 12.4 million by 2025, according to a report from Eurocontrol which co-ordinates air traffic control across the continent.

This is an improvement on a previous report by the organisation in 2013 that predicted there would be a capacity gap of 4%, or 500,000 flights by 2025.

Eurocontrol forecasts a gap of 6% by 2035 and a gap of 8%, or 1.5 million flights, by 2040.

These numbers are also an improvement on the previous report, which predicted a gap of 12% in 2035, according to the Financial Times.

Although figures in the previous report are based on a slightly smaller geographical area than the latest headline numbers, it highlights the trend in airport capacity.

Senior figures in the aviation industry say the smaller gap remains a concern, with some arguing Europe faces an airport crisis as passengers endure congestion and disruptions on an “unprecedented” scale.

Eurocontrol director-general Eamonn Brennan told the FT: “No serious new airports have been constructed in Europe over the last 15 years. We’ve not seen huge runways put in, we’re using infrastructure that was there 20 years ago.”

Asked if Europe faced an airport capacity crisis, Angela Gittens, director-general of the Airports Council International trade body, said: “absolutely”.

Michael Kerkloh, chief executive of Munich airport, said: “The airport capacity crunch . . . will result in unprecedented levels of congestion and disruptions.”

Airports are expanding as they try to tackle the capacity problems. The 111 airports in Eurocontrol’s report intended to expand by 16% between 2017 and 2035. Within this, the largest 20 airports aim to grow at a faster rate of 28%.

Under its revised numbers, France, Germany and the UK would add more than 3,000 flights a day by 2040 and Turkey would add more than 4,500.

Eurocontrol put the diminishing capacity gap down to a combination of lower demand and higher capacity. The report said this showed the effect of “a nine-year hiatus in traffic growth” caused by the 2008 financial crisis and consequent economic downturn, which has continued to reduce growth expectations.

Since the 2013 report, the growth it predicted from Turkey and Germany had fallen, while it said the UK and the Netherlands were better using their capacity.

Eurocontrol did not address the environmental effects of the increase in flights, but will do in a report in October.

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