Shortage in airport capacity will leave 230 million passengers on tarmac in 2035
Assuming that air traffic will once again double before 2035, Europe will urgently have to increase the capacity of its existing airports and/or build new ones, otherwise 230 million passengers a year will be stranded each year.
2017 was the best year ever concerning air traffic. 4 billion passengers traveled worldwide, of which 1,3 billion tourists (+ 7%). In Europe the 5 biggest airports saw an increase of 18 million passengers.
The 2015 estimations of IATA (International Association of Airline Companies) become more and more realistic: 7 billion passengers worldwide in 2035 and… 14 billion in 2050.
Problems in Europe
An evolution that causes problems throughout Europe. Most European airports are on the brink of saturation but there are considerable political and societal problems concerning building new ones or expanding the existing ones.
In 2014 already a study of Eurocontrol caused concern: in 2035 2 million flights (12% of passenger traffic) won’t be able to be handled by the existing airports anymore, an equivalent of 230 million passengers being stranded on the tarmac.
Air traffic will increase with 50% while the airport capacity will not exceed 20%. Eurocontrol predicts that in 2035 the 20 biggest airports in Europe will be completely saturated.
During its 2017 annual meeting IATA has also rang the alarm bell. Every day 11 million people are transported through air with 100.000 flights. How will we be able to keep the safety level as high as it is now (2017 was the safest year in aviation history)?
Europe has to take into account that public acceptance of expanding airports or building new ones is very low, unlike emerging countries like Brazil or Turkey, where huge new airports or an abundance of small ones are planned.
Eurocontrol has calculated that even when we include all alternative solutions (like more transport by train, exploiting airport capacity 24 hours a day) congestion is inevitable.
People living in the neighbourhood of airports will certainly not be amused. Just looking at Belgium, there already are a lot of problems around Brussels. On top of that, Charleroi needs a longer runway and Liège a second one.
The problem is that investments in more safety and security are still accepted, investments in additional capacity are not. The next general assembly of worldwide airports will have to debate all this issues intensely. It will be held in June 2018 in… Brussels.