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Air traffic to 2050 (2)

August 28, 2013

In last week’s post we explained how SAMI and Helios helped EUROCONTROL develop forecasts for air traffic out to 2050 using four scenarios designed to focus on understanding the factors that will form the future air traffic and the challenges that lie ahead rather than providing the exact future traffic counts,

We use four scenarios to explore European air traffic in 2050:

  • A – Global Growth;
  • C – Regulation & Growth;
  • C’ – Happy Localism; and,
  • D – Fragmenting World.

They set the political and economic environment of Europe, providing the context to consider a range of plausible futures for 2050.

The scenarios are differentiated by whether Europe has an ‘inward’ or an ‘outward’ perspective at a global level (a primarily political question), and whether Europe adapts (as measured by the economic effect). They do not represent all possible outcomes, and are not necessarily equally probable or exclusive – indeed actual events will probably comprise a combination of factors from different scenarios.

The most ‘visionary’ scenario, Scenario A (Global Growth), is characterised by strong economic growth in an increasingly globalised World, with technology used successfully to mitigate the effects of sustainability challenges, such as the environment or resource availability. It reflects the highest growth with 26.1 million flight movements in Europe for 2050 – 2.7 times more than in 2012.

Scenario C (Regulation & Growth) represents an extension to the existing environment we are in today. It is characterised by moderate economic growth, with regulation reconciling the environmental, social and economic demands to address the growing global sustainability concerns. It exhibits a medium level of growth with 18.6 million flight movements in Europe by 2050 – 2.0 times more than in 2012.

Scenario C’ (Happy Localism) is characterised by the European economies focusing on local exchanges, with nevertheless some adaptation to new technologies but with more environmental consciousness. It exhibits a comparable level of growth to Scenario C, with 17.7 million flight movements by 2050 – 1.9 times more than in 2012, but exhibits relatively stronger European regional flows.

The forecast for Scenario D (Fragmenting World) exhibits the lowest growth; resulting in 10.5 million flight movements – only 1.1 times more than in 2012, and it exhibits a 3% decline in traffic between 2035 and 2050. This scenario is characterised by a World of increasing tensions between regions, fragmentation of Europe, with more security threats, reduced trade and transport integration and knock-on effects of weaker economies. Much of the growth in traffic comes from outside of Europe.

There are a number of key trends that are evident across all scenarios, to a greater or lesser extent. In all the scenarios, the major growth will come with international arrival/departures, with internal flights declining as a percentage of the total forecast. This is likely a consequence of Europe’s declining relative role in the world economy by 2050 in all scenarios.

In next week’s posting we will look at policy makers and business planners can use these scenarios.

(written by Gill Ringland)

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