Revealed: The European Countries That Have Recovered Quickest From The Pandemic

Although the COVID-19 pandemic seems a long-distant memory, the aviation industry still finds itself in the recovery process. Most European countries have still not fully recovered from what has come to be known as the most impactful event in the history of commercial aviation. The aviation analytics firm Cirium has recently published interesting data regarding the recovery pace of different European countries, and the outcome of the research might surprise you.

The latest on the recovery of the European aviation industry

It is undeniable that the recovery of the aviation industry in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has been solid. Traffic levels have been increasing faster than what had been forecasted during the most damaging crisis aviation has come to know. However, most countries have still not reached 2019 traffic levels.


The aviation analytics company Cirium recently released a study investigating the recovery of the aviation industry in 42 European countries and regions based on the number of departures in 2022 and comparing them to 2019. According to the study, just two countries have reported more departures in 2022 than in the pre-pandemic year, and they are probably not what you expect.

In 2022, 17,671 departures were reported for the Eastern European country of Albania, which represents an 18% increase compared to the pre-pandemic year. Such an increase in yearly departures is the highest among all countries and regions analyzed. Another Eastern European country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, placed second, with annual departures up 14% in 2022 compared to 2019. It might not come as a surprise that Bosnia and Herzegovina witnessed such a solid recovery; the country’s largest commercial airport, Sarajevo International (SJJ), had already exceeded pre-pandemic passenger numbers in the first quarter of 2022.

Wizz Air A320

Photo: Rudzenka/Shutterstock

Leisure traffic supported solid recovery

As surprising as it might seem, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina are the only two countries to have fully recovered from the pandemic in terms of annual departures. Nonetheless, three countries are near to going beyond the 2019 threshold, and all of them are popular touristic destinations.

Greece reported 236,689 departures in 2022, 2% lower than in 2019. On the other hand, Portugal’s traffic is 4% down compared to the last pre-pandemic year, followed by Iceland, with 5% fewer annual departures in 2022 compared to 2019. A similarity these three countries share is that they all are typical touristic destinations, which is a strong signal of the relevance leisure traffic has played in the aftermath of the pandemic to help airlines recover.

SX-NAC Aegean Airlines Airbus A321-271NX (1)

Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

At what point is the rest of Europe?

The study published by Cirium reveals that the rest of Europe is still on a path of recovery from the COVID-19 but has still not restored the volume of pre-pandemic traffic.

According to the research, for instance, the United Kingdom places 29th among the 42 countries and regions investigated. In 2022, 816,854 flights departed from the UK, a 25% reduction compared to the 1,086,833 in 2019. Germany is even further from 2019 traffic levels, with 2022 departures (631,160) down 35% compared to 2019. Spain, the third busiest aviation market in 2022, according to Eurocontrol, saw its annual departures in 2022 decrease by 10% compared to 2019.

EC-LXK Iberia Airbus A330-302 (1)

Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

Despite the ban on Russia-originating flights imposed by virtually the whole of Europe, the Russian Federation suffered a relatively limited impact on the number of departures in 2022, which was 20% lower than in 2019. On the other hand, the Russia-Ukrainian war dramatically impacted Ukraine, where 2022 departures were 85% lower than in 2019, for a total of 14,178.

Do you think the European aviation industry will have recovered by the end of 2023? Let us know by clicking on the comment button below!


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Written by Ethiotime1

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