Europe’s airline recovery: a tale of two continents

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By Judson Rollins


June 24, 2021, © Leeham News: The recovery in passenger air travel from COVID-19 has been wildly uneven. A dramatic recovery in passenger volume – although not yield – in many domestic markets has been offset by a continuing sharp slump in international traffic.

The latter has proven particularly crippling to European airlines, most of which have miniscule domestic markets. Intra-EU travel, although generally permitted by member countries, has been slow to recover as business travelers have failed to return in meaningful numbers.

Meanwhile, long-haul travel remains hampered, most recently by an ever-changing landscape of “red zone,” “orange zone,” and “green zone” labels, plus other restrictions placed on arriving travelers.

The bright spot is strong leisure travel demand, which is propelling the continent’s low-cost carriers much closer to recovery than their legacy counterparts. This LCC-versus-legacy split brings into sharp relief the state of European airline traffic.

Source: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control


  • Vaccine rollout ahead of many developed markets; certificate program launching next week.
  • Legacy carrier recovery is dragging out, weighed down by business and long-haul travel woes.
  • LCCs performing relatively well, with some on track to fully recover next year.
  • Train service unlikely to displace airline demand.

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