Airport capacity will be the next blocking factor to growth in air transport

Eurocontrol released its latest 20-year forecast that shows the number of flights increasing 1.8 times to 16.9 million IFR movements from a 2009 base in the most likely scenario.The range of the forecast scenarios is between 13.1 and 20.9 million flights in 2030 with growth at an average of 1.6% to 3.9% annually, with 2.8% the most likely.

It warns that future air traffic will be limited by capacity at the airports, with between 0.7 and 5 million flights not being accommodated in 2030, or between 5% and 19% of demand. However, that congestion is lower than in the forecast two years ago, with the drop in traffic in 2009 giving the system some extra years to react and adapt. But once the limits are reached, the number of unaccommodated flights increases quickly.

The forecast says that even with capacity restrictions, airports will grow, and in 2030 there will be 13 to 34 as big as today’s top seven, with some of the faster growing East European airports joining the top 25.

The report suggests that on short-haul, high-speed trains will continue to compete with air transport. However, while there will be new or improved HST connections on some 40 city-pairs, the impact on air travel will only be 0.5%.

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