European air traffic data shows that the coronavirus outbreak has effectively set the continent’s airspace back by more than a quarter of a century, to flight levels not experienced since the early 1990s.

Statistics from pan-European air navigation organisation have already shown that daily flight totals have more than halved, and analysis of its data from 30 airports reflects the impact of the outbreak as it swept across the region over a two-week period.

Italy’s Milan Malpensa and Rome were the first to record a halving of traffic over 9-11 March, with a lag of about a week before major airports in Germany, Spain, France and Scandinavia experienced declines of the same magnitude around 17-19 March. At the tail end of the wave were airports at European extremities, including those in the UK and Ireland as well as Greece and Turkey.

airports daily variation

Source: Eurocontrol

Decline in European airports’ activity on 25 March 2020 against 2019

Paris Orly airport is scheduled to close to commercial flights on 31 March, with all services transferred to Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Restrictions have gradually intensified at the Orly, including closure of a runway and limitations on navigation and landing aids, while a – somewhat redundant – NOTAM prohibited Airbus A380 operations at the airport from 25 March.

Orly’s operator, Paris Aeroports, states that three of the four terminals will close from 26 March until further notice, and all flights will be “reassigned” to Charles de Gaulle at the end of the month.

Eurocontrol statistics show that, of the 30 airports analysed, Orly recorded the largest traffic impact on 25 March – down nearly 95% on the same period last year. Orly is heavily dependent on budget carriers such as Transavia, EasyJet and Vueling, all affected by operational suspensions.

Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam, the twin hubs of Air France-KLM, are among the relatively less-affected of the 30 airports, with losses of around 77-78%.

Lufthansa Group airports, in contrast, have been among those impacted most severely, with Munich, Vienna, Geneva and Dusseldorf all showing declines of over 90%, although Frankfurt – again, the primary hub – has fared better at 80%.

Although Italy has been the focal point for the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, the traffic fall appears to have stabilised at around 85% for Rome and a couple of points higher for Milan Malpensa, with a similar respective situation at Madrid at Barcelona.

London Heathrow and Dublin are among the least-affected airports, with British Airways and, in particular, Aer Lingus showing notably lower levels of disruption than airline counterparts in Germany, France, Italy and Spain.