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German air traffic levels declined to pre-unification levels in 2020


German air navigation service provider, DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, today revealed it handled less than half the traffic it normally does in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

It recorded a total of 1.46 million take-offs, landings and overflights across German airspace in 2020 under instrument flight rules, and warns that it is not anticipating a recovery for several years.

Putting last year’s results into perspective, DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung says that it controlled fewer aircraft in 2020 than at any point since it was founded in 1993.

Indeed, last year’s total represents a 56.2% decline on 2019, when 3.33 million aircraft movements were registered.

As such, it notes that the volume of traffic in Germany has fallen back to pre-reunification levels.

“Passenger traffic has been particularly hard hit in 2020 due to the increasing numbers of coronavirus cases now being recorded in many countries and the travel restrictions once again being imposed as a result of this,” commented DFS’ chief operations officer, Dirk Mahns.

“All airports are suffering here, although the two major hubs of Frankfurt and Munich are recording the greatest losses in absolute terms. On the other hand, air freight is encountering only modest reductions.

“Airports that handle a high proportion of freight have therefore observed significantly fewer drops in traffic.”

Leipzig Halle is one such airport, which due to increased freight activity in 2020, only experienced an 18% in flight movements.

The bad news is that DFS does not expect the volume of air traffic to recover quickly, even following the successful development and initial roll-out of coronavirus vaccines in individual countries.

“It will likely be 2025 before we see a return to pre-pandemic levels,” comments Mahns, who noted that if this scenario plays out, DFS would lose around €2 billion in anticipated revenues.

The requirement to keep at least 70% of its controllers on active duty as German airspace never closes means that DFS “will not be able to reduce its costs to the same degree”, says Mahns.

“We continue to provide our service, even during times of crisis,” explained the COO. “Air traffic remains highly important, not least for the distribution of vaccines throughout the world. This obviously also requires effective and reliable air navigation services.”

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