September 25, 2019 | DLR Global Aviation Monitor

Declining numbers of flights in Germany and subdued growth worldwide until the end of 2019

  • Long-standing high rates of growth for air transport in Europe came to a stop in September 2019, as the growth rate reached its lowest level since 2013.
  • Air traffic has declined in Germany, with a fall of two to three percent in flight movements also expected over the coming months.
  • Outlook – subdued growth set to continue globally in the fourth quarter of 2019.
  • Focus: Aeronautics, transport

Since June 2019, the number of flights in Germany has been below the levels for 2018, with Lufthansa, Ryanair, EasyJet and Condor all reducing their services. This September, the 91,000 departures in Germany equate to a drop of two percent compared with the previous year. Growth rates started falling rapidly back at the beginning of 2019 and reached zero in April. “Possible reasons for this development include the shrinking economy or possible overcapacity on the part of airlines,” says Peter Berster from the Institute of Air Transport and Airport Research at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) site in Cologne.

While air transport in Germany had long enjoyed high growth rates, the departure of Air Berlin in late 2017 resulted in a short-term fall in the number of flights. However, the previous year’s levels had already been reached again by early 2018. A rapid catch-up effect was apparent by the end of 2018, but this did not continue into 2019.

Gulf airlines in decline

The DLR Global Aviation Monitor 3/2019 also registered a cessation of growth across Europe. With approximately one million departures in September 2019, Europe saw a similar number of flights compared to the same month in 2018. “At a global level, we still see an increase of one or two percent in the number of flights, with a total of 3.35 million departures, and this is set to continue in the immediate future,” explains Berster. “However, in this case, too, growth rates of four to five percent, which were commonplace in 2017 and 2018, are now a thing of the past.” At present and in the near future, the biggest growth areas for air transport are in Asia and South America, at three to four percent, although in both of the previous two years, the Asian air transport market saw incredible growth in certain areas, at 10 to 12 percent. The Middle East, in particular, has experienced a sharp decline. The well-known Gulf airlines Etihad, Emirates and Qatar, among others, made a total of approximately 106,000 departures, some six percent below the previous year’s figure.

Over 20 percent fewer flights from Dresden, Hahn and Memmingen

In Germany, the negative trend is particularly apparent at some smaller airports, such as Weeze and Hahn. The withdrawal of Ryanair from smaller locations is leading to a significant decline in aircraft movements. At Hahn, for example, Ryanair has cut its services by 40 percent, so that the airport has had to cope with an overall decline of 26 percent. “We are noticing that certain low-cost carriers are concentrating more on larger locations than they have in previous years, and increasingly withdrawing from small airports,” says Berster. In certain instances, other low-cost carriers are moving in to fill the gaps. Eurowings reduced its services from Dortmund by 12 percent, while Wizz increased its flights from that airport by 30 percent, to over 500 flights. The same thing can be seen at Bremen and Berlin-Schönefeld airports, where Ryanair is reducing its services and Wizz is expanding its numbers of flights or offering new routes. In Dresden, the drastic decline was particularly noticeable when Germania was declared insolvent. Corendon is attempting to take over some of Germania’s former routes, such as Rostock–Antalya or Münster–Antalya, or create new ones, like Düsseldorf–Antalya. The airline is also increasingly offering flights from smaller airports.

In September 2019, Dusseldorf and Stuttgart airports had between two and five percent more flights than the previous year. For Dusseldorf, this strong expansion can largely be attributed to Eurowings (+9 percent), Ryanair/Lauda (+14 percent) and EasyJet (+32 percent), while in Stuttgart Ryanair/Lauda increased its flights by over 100 percent.

Low-cost carriers still gaining ground at a global level

While Germany’s biggest carriers, including Lufthansa (-0.6 percent), Ryanair (-1.7 percent), EasyJet (-4.5 percent) and Condor (-3.9 percent), reduced their flights in September, the eight largest airlines in the global market further increased their number of flights in September. The three major US airlines remain at the top, led by American Airlines with over 192,000 departures, ahead of Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. These are followed by the low-cost carriers Southwest Airlines and Ryanair (+6 percent in total) and the two Chinese airlines China Eastern and China Southern. Among the world’s 25 largest airlines (in terms of numbers of flights), the low-cost carriers IndiGo from India (+15 percent) and Azul from Brazil (+21 percent) are experiencing particularly high growth.

Global Aviation Monitor

The Global Aviation Monitor (GAM) is published quarterly by the DLR Institute of Air Transport and Airport Research. The report records the current situation for global, European and German air transport, and provides a short-term forecast for the next three months. Key stakeholders in the aviation sector are thus made aware of changes in global air transport as early as possible. A new traffic light presentation in the report provides an instant overview of how the individual markets will develop over the coming months.


Falk Dambowsky

Head of Media Relations, Editor
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne
Tel: +49 2203 601-3959

Peter Berster

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Air Transport and Airport Research
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne