February figures show that air traffic growth continues

21 March 2019

In February, NATS handled 174,069 flights in UK airspace, an increase of 2.8% compared to February 2018, which equates to an extra 4,769 flights. This seemingly substantial increase in traffic can partly be attributed to a number of snow-related flight cancellations that impacted flight numbers in February 2018.

Growth was seen in almost all sectors, with the exception being ‘Domestic’, which saw a decline of 3% and follows the decline in January.

Growth was seen in these sectors:

Non-Transatlantic International Overflights – ↑11.2%

Transatlantic Arrivals and Departures – ↑1.5%

Transatlantic Overflights – ↑12.3%

Non-Transatlantic International Arrivals and Departures – ↑2.2%

Some of the highest contributing routes to the significant growth in the ‘Transatlantic Overflights’ sector include flights from Paris, Milan and Frankfurt to JFK International Airport in New York, while an increase in flights from Dublin to destinations such as Frankfurt, Moscow, Rome and Vienna have contributed to the growth in the ‘Non-Transatlantic International Overflights’ sector.

NATS handled 24.2% of all European flight traffic in February 2019, and both Swanwick and Prestwick Centres showed growth when compared to February 2018, with a 4% and 3.6% increase respectively. There was also growth at each of the ‘big five’ London Airports.

The peak travel day for the month was Friday 15th February, which could possibly be attributed to families departing for half term holidays.

99.9% of the 174,069 flights handled by NATS had no NATS attributable delay. 0.14%, a total of 244 flights, were delayed by an average of 32 minutes. Across all 174,069 flights handled in February, the average delay per flight was 2.7 seconds.

Juliet Kennedy, NATS Operations Director, said: “It was another busy month for our air traffic controllers in February, and this trend of growth looks set to continue. We are working hard to plan and prepare for the upcoming months, especially as the airlines’ summer schedules will be introduced soon, signalling the start of a very busy period for everyone in the industry.”


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