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Chart of the week: UK flights

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 11 Jan 2024

Our chart this week illustrates how the number of flights to and from UK airports has not fully recovered since the pandemic.
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Our chart this week looks at how the number of flights departing and arriving from UK airports (including internal flights) has changed over the past five years. 

According to numbers published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – based on data from EUROCONTROL – there were approximately 2,137,000 flights in 2019, 835,000 in 2020, 823,000 in 2021, 1,714,000 in 2022 and 1,931,000 in 2023.

This was equivalent to daily averages of 5,870, 2,282, 2,254, 4,695 and 5,290 in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 respectively.

Despite reports that consumer demand for air travel has recovered to (or potentially even exceeded) pre-pandemic levels, the number of flights in 2023 was only 90% of that seen in 2019. This is believed to reflect changing travel patterns among business travellers, where video conferencing, corporate carbon reduction targets and cost-saving initiatives are all thought to have contributed to a significant reduction in business trips compared with pre-pandemic times.

For the airline industry, the loss of businesses paying higher prices for flexible bookings has been a key challenge that has caused airlines to focus on improving passenger load factors (ie, seat utilisation), promoting premium tickets to leisure travellers and, in some cases, rebalancing towards the budget carrier market.

With the number of flights in the second half of 2023 around 9% more than in 2022, the industry will be hoping for further growth in demand during 2024.

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