in Aerospace

NATS in holding pattern for increasing UK air traffic levels

Posted 26 January 2022 · Add Comment

Air traffic figures for 2021 show the UK aviation industry is still struggling to recover from the pandemic - as numbers changed little from 2020 and remained volatile - with the UK's National Air Traffic Services (NATS) ready to respond as more prepare to fly again.

Image courtesy NATS

Despite the peaks and troughs as the industry responded to changing COVID guidelines at home and in overseas markets, overall volumes have been depressed now for two years.
Air traffic in 2021 averaged just 41% of pre-pandemic figures, mirroring 2020’s 40% average. This is despite shoots of optimism as routes to the USA re-opened and vaccinated passengers were permitted to travel overseas, although destinations were subject to frequent change, often with little or no warning.

This often left little time for the industry to respond and as a critical part of the industry infrastructure, NATS had to remain prepared for traffic levels that frequently did not materialise.
Overall, just 1,062,945 flights were managed by NATS in 2021, similar to the 1,028,254 flights in 2020, both significantly less than 2019 flight numbers, which were more than 2.5 million.
December 2021 saw 69% of 2019 traffic levels as passengers travelled during the festive season. The busiest day of the year was 17th December  with 5,346 flights (77% of 2019) and December was the third busiest month of 2021 with 130,070 flights handled. October was the busiest month overall in 2021, with 139,716 flights (61% of 2019), as travel restrictions were eased before the Omicron variant resulted in further constraints.
Several airports also saw their busiest day of the year in December: Heathrow on 19th December with 950 flights, Luton (385 flights) and Stansted (474 flights) on 17th December.
The UK recovery has lagged behind Europe, largely due to Government restrictions and European restrictions on UK travel. European Network traffic in 2021 was 56% of 2019 levels compared to the UK’s 41%.
Juliet Kennedy, Operations Director, NATS, said: “2021 was another memorable year for all of us at NATS. It was a challenging task to plan for the many twists and turns that Covid presented, with the Delta and Omicron variants and subsequent changes to travel restrictions and self-isolation rules.

"Fortunately, robust health and safety management meant that Covid-related staff shortages did not unduly disrupt our operations. Our air traffic controllers, engineers and support staff overcame all the challenges thrown at them to continue to provide safe and efficient services for airlines, airports and airspace users.
“Traffic has unfortunately decreased again in the New Year. With forecasts not predicting a full recovery for a number of years, we’ve still got a long way to go before the industry is back on its feet. However, experts are predicting that we’re near the beginning of the end of the pandemic and everyone at NATS is ready to respond to increasing levels of traffic when people are ready to fly again.”


* required field

Post a comment

Other Stories
Latest News

Kromek receives D3S-ID order from US federal entity

Developer of radiation and bio-detection technology solutions for the advanced imaging and CBRN detection segments, Kromek Group, has received an order from a US federal entity for the Group’s D3S-ID wearable nuclear

Defence Academy opens online research repository for UK defence and allies

An innovative digital project launching at the Defence Academy is poised to make decades of defence research available to UK defence personnel and allies.

Royal Navy sailors get new uniform

Royal Navy sailors are receiving a new uniform at the start of a £78 million revamp of their clothing.

Farnborough Airport welcomes Flexjet team

Farnborough Airport’s mission to become a global showcase for airport sustainability and driver of regional economic growth continues to gather pace as it welcomes premium fleet operator Flexjet in setting up its European

Thompson launches next gen VantageXL

County Armagh based Thompson Aero Seating today launched a new and enhanced 2022 design VantageXL.

Rolls-Royce powers directed energy field tests in US

Rolls-Royce has successfully demonstrated ‘deep magazine’ power capability for directed energy applications, powering multiple, extended laser field tests in collaboration with Lockheed Martin as part of the US

Future Armoured Vehicles Weapon Systems
See us at
DVD BT2704220922Advanced Engin BT2504031122Future Arm Vehicles Power Systems BTFuture Armoured Vehicles Weapon Systems BTFuture Arm Vehicles Active Protection Systems BT