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Air Traffic to 2050 (3)

September 5, 2013

In the last two week’s postings we looked at the use of scenarios to examine the future of air traffic to 2050. We explored four scenarios:

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

The use of scenarios in developing new strategies and assessing existing strategies is particularly aimed at policy makers and business planners. Scenarios should provoke thought – how could we manage if there was 2.7x today’s air traffic (as for Scenario A which exhibits the highest growth) – and in what economic and technological state would we be to manage with such growth? What would be disruptive to the current assumptions? Should governments support plans for extending capacity? What are the ‘early warning signs’ that tell us which scenario is beginning to unfold?

We postulate that the ‘y axis’ in the scenario matrix, economic and technical adaptability, is the most critical for stimulating aviation growth in Europe, even if the growth forecasted is still moderate compared to the second half of the twentieth century. However, the political orientation of Europe should not be discounted if economic adaptability is desirable – in a world where Europe will become a declining player on a global scale, the easiest route to higher traffic growth is for Europe to maintain an outward focus.


If high growth in Europe is expected, there are some things that policies and business plans can impact, and others that policy and planning professionals need to keep a watching brief on (for example the global economic and political situation, demographics). Some of the big challenges will be linked to decoupling aviation resource use from economic growth by using less oil fuel products and reducing environmental impact, and yet in an environment where economies continue to grow. As the highest economic and population growth shifts to Africa and Asia, the demand for air transport in these regions could expand substantially over the coming decades and this must be exploited. Furthermore, in the higher traffic growth scenarios it is clear that airport capacity will continue to substantially limit growth; it will be necessary for policy planners to decide if, and how, to invest to accommodate demand.

(Written by Gill Ringland) 

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