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Air transportation industry in Europe - statistics & facts

Flying was an attractive action since the early human societies but infeasible with primitive technologies. Advancements in science paved the way for sophisticated engineering designs that enabled humans to develop airplanes as we know them in the 21st century. Introduction of the possibility for air transportation in the 1900s spiked the interests of both businesses and people. Today, the aviation industry is one of the advanced markets globally and especially in Europe.

Evolution of the air transportation industry in Europe

Since 2006, global air traffic passenger increased with a positive trend, except for 2009 in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis and 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. With a plethora of airline or airport groups competing for larger market share through higher efficiency and better connectivity, the European aviation industry is constantly in a market-making process with new innovations introduced. In 2020, commercial airlines in Europe were hit very hard by the coronavirus pandemic, reporting 34.5 billion U.S. dollars in net profit losses. During that same period, the freight load factor of commercial airlines dropped to 63.8 percent.

Leading airlines

Passenger air transportation in Europe grew at a higher rate compared to air cargo, mostly because of the cost-ineffectiveness of air freight for industrial firms. Based on the number of passengers transported, Ryanair Group, easyJet, and Lufthansa Group were the top three European airlines in 2020. The profitability of the aviation market attracts firms with an innovative approach to older problems. As a result, the market dominance of firms evolves as market participants can offer cost-effective and differentiated air travel services. For instance, low-cost carriers (LCCs) offer passenger air travel at a comparably lower price through their distinctive business model. Therefore, LCCs’ market share in the European aviation industry increased continuously over recent decades. Ryanair is an European example of how LCCs could grow exponentially with a promising corporate model. In ten years, the company more than doubled its annual revenue streams, generating roughly 8.5 billion euros in its latest financial year.

Leading airports

Although the competition amongst airport operating groups is less fierce than air carriers, airports also strive to improve their services strategically. Airport operators often do so by means of enhancing connectivity, passenger experience, and many more activities to achieve an increase in the number of passengers carried or goods transported. London Heathrow, Paris-Charles De Gaulle, Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt am Main were some of the leading airports in the European Union (EU-28).

Environmental impact of the aviation industry

Over the recent decades, demand for air travel and transportation grew steadily. Nonetheless, the aviation industry is one of the main pollutants of the environment with its high emission levels. To combat this drawback, organizations and institutions search for neutralizing carbon footprint of the air travel market. For instance, carbon-neutral airports are one of the supporting factors to reduce the environmental impact of air travel. During the last decade, the number of carbon-neutral airports in Europe grew by more than 36-fold, reaching 146 in 2020. Although highly desirable from a social point of view, the transition into greening the airports is difficult for the leading airports which facilitate the travel of millions of passengers annually.

Interesting statistics

In the following 4 chapters, you will quickly find the 27 most important statistics relating to "Air transportation industry in Europe".

Statistics on the topic


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