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Air Traffic to 2050 – SAMI Consulting & Helios

August 22, 2013

When confronted with day-to-day challenges and short-term pressures, 2050 may seem like too far away to need to plan for.  However, many of the decisions we make today will affect our future – budgets are set, infrastructure is built and people are recruited.

The first EUROCONTROL forecast of flight movements in Europe up to 2050 was recently published. It focuses on developments after 2035; traffic evolution between now and 2035 is discussed in the EUROCONTROL Medium‑Term and Long-Term Forecasts (LTF) published in March 2013 and June 2013 respectively.

Previously ad-hoc requests for 2050 projections has been met by extrapolating trends from the later years of the existing long term forecast. SAMI and Helios evolved the methodology by specifically considering the drivers between 2035 and 2050.

This 2050 (VLTF) forecast uses qualitative scenarios to develop quantitative assumptions that in turn drive quantitative forecasts, in order to consider a range of plausible futures for 2050 and how they might emerge. The four scenarios take over from those developed for the LTF13; they are qualitatively‐different representations of the many possible (rather than predicted) futures.

The 2050 forecast method uses a model of economic and industry developments to grow airport‐pair traffic forecasts, starting from the last forecast year of each of the scenarios within the LTF13.

It should be noted that the LTF model was designed to forecast traffic in a world with no discontinuous change, and where traffic is driven by GDP growth.  Both of these assumptions could break by 2050, and the scenario forecasts are therefore constrained by this.

The 2050 forecast does not aim at providing the exact future traffic counts, but focuses rather on understanding the factors that will form the future air traffic and the challenges that lie ahead.  The range of likely outcomes presented in the scenarios should contribute to planning and managing risk, and help cope with uncertainty and the potential impact of changes in underlying assumptions.

The development of air transport in Europe is driven by a series of interrelated factors, many of which are external to aviation and indeed external to Europe. Key drivers include demographics (e.g. globally there is high uncertainty about population to 2050) and the global economy (e.g. the European Union is projected to represent 17% of the world economy in 2050, cf. 29% in 2010). Technology advances in particular will have an impact on global aviation markets over the period of 2035 – 2050, and may sharply cut energy consumption, thus reducing environmental impact and dependence on oil products. Many of these advances are likely to come from outside Europe, with Asia moving up traditionally European value chains.

We’ll describe the four scenarios and the resulting forecasts in next week’s post.

(written by Gill Ringland)

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