Air traffic in 2020 decreased by almost 60% to 1998 levels

In 2019, around 816 flights were controlled by NAV. This year, the number stood at around 345 thousand

Photo: Fabiana Saboya | Sul Informação

Air traffic in Portugal "reduced to 1998 levels", due to the effects of the pandemic, in the total year of 2020, revealed today, Monday, the NAV Portugal.

Between January and December of last year, the entity responsible for air traffic control in Portugal processed 345,3 thousand flights, when both in 2018 and 2019 it was above 800 thousand. In 1998 "air traffic control managed 357 thousand flights in the flight information regions".

«From 1998 until now, the total number of movements controlled by the NAV has kept growing practically constant until the maximum registered in 2019, when the NAV controlled 816 flights (IFR). The 2020 figure thus represents a 58% drop in traffic from 2019 to 2020 and a drop of almost 22 years in terms of total aircraft in the airspace under Portugal's responsibility. Overall, it should be noted that traffic across the entire Eurocontrol network fell by 55% over the past year,” according to NAV.

After in January and February the number of controlled flights remained within the normal range, with the NAV recording "the same 119 thousand movements" in the same months of the previous year, from the moment that Covid-19 a pandemic was decreed in March, “several air connections began to be suspended and demand to drop”.

“The effects on traffic were immediate, with flights managed by NAV falling to -94% in April, -92% in May and -88% in June, compared to the same months in 2019. traffic recorded slight improvements, "stabilizing" at levels equivalent to -55% compared to the same period in 2019, but the last months of the year were marked by a new deterioration, a trend that continues in these first days of 2021", added the same entity .



“It was a situation that caught everyone off guard. No one has ever thought it possible for aviation to come to almost complete immobility. Adapting the operation to the conditions of the pandemic and, at the same time, to the urgent demands of transporting medical supplies, emergency flights and hundreds of repatriation flights to several European countries, was one of the biggest challenges that NAV has ever faced. It is a source of pride for all our teams to have been able to keep the skies open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, even in the face of these very harsh adversities», considered Manuel Teixeira Rolo, president of NAV.

The same person in charge speaks of “a mixture of sadness and pride”, when looking at the past year.

“On the one hand, the pandemic crisis and all the costs and impacts it brought to thousands and thousands of families, left in all of us a feeling of deep sadness and concern. On the other hand, it is with pride that we look back and see the agile, fast, resilient and professional way with which NAV dealt with a situation that was totally unexpected and never seen in our lifetime», he reinforced.

«Although even the most pessimistic forecasts have been decimated by the evolution of the pandemic scenario, with greater falls throughout the year than initially forecast, we estimate that this year will be of some stability», concluded Manuel Teixeira Rolo.

Eurocontrol estimates that total traffic in 2021 will remain well below pre-pandemic values, "although it is expected that next summer will bring a faster recovery in total flights". On the other hand, the return to values ​​close to the total number of flights registered in 2019 «should only take place in 2024».

“Thus, and despite the unprecedented crisis that aviation and economies are facing at this time, preparing for the future in the short, medium and long term is already among the priorities of NAV for this and the coming years. In addition to the preparation for the entry into operation of a new traffic management system, the works for the new operating room are also continuing, a clear sign that NAV Portugal is committed to the continuous improvement of its operation and prepared for the post period. -pandemic', says this entity.