European airports cannot handle the growth of air traffic. If the bottlenecks are not addressed, by 2040 the number of air passengers confronted with delays per day will have increased tenfold to 470,000.
That fear comes from Eurocontrol, the European air traffic controller with an important centre near Maastricht Aachen Airport, in a report on the crowds in 2040.
Eurocontrol anticipates a 53% increase in the number of flights in Europe, to more than 16 million a year. And that while it is already difficult to steer all air traffic in the right direction. On a normal summer day in 2040, sixteen airports will have problems similar to those facing London's Heathrow. It becomes so busy that any deviation from the schedule has major consequences for the following flights.
In the past year, the number of minutes of delay has already doubled compared to 2017. David Marsh, data researcher at Eurocontrol: "Soon, almost half a million passengers a day will be faced with a delay of up to two hours."
Eurocontrol fears that by 2040 1.5 million flights will not take place at all. "It is in danger of becoming a mess", Marsh says.
Eurocontrol Director Eamonn Brennan underlines the importance of the report for policymakers. According to him, governments must quickly tackle bottlenecks in the airspace and on the ground, for example by expanding airports. Eurocontrol is also concerned about climate change in the report. Because higher temperatures, heavy showers, more frequent storms and more turbulence can lead to damage to airports, even more delays and a shift in periods in which people want to fly.
Olivier Jankovec, director of the cooperating European airports, expects that the problems will lead to a damage of 88 billion euros in 2040. He regrets the attitude of governments. "There is not planned far enough ahead."