Air transport statistics

Data extracted in November 2020.

Planned article update: December 2021.

In 2019, 1 034 million people in the EU travelled by air, an increase of 3.8 % compared with 2018.
In 2019, Paris Charles De Gaulle recorded the highest number of air passengers (76 million), followed by Amsterdam Schiphol (72 million).
In 2019, Paris Charles De Gaulle became the main European airport for freight and mail.

2018-2019 growth in total passenger air transport by Member State (in %)

This article analyses recent data on air transport in the European Union (EU), both for passengers and freight and mail. It presents data on air passengers transported, showing the slight increase observed at EU-27 level between 2018 and 2019. The role of air transport in freight transport is less pronounced, as aircraft are an expensive transport mode in terms of tonne-kilometres and only competitive for longer distances and relatively light high-value or perishable goods.

The article distinguishes national (domestic), intra- and extra-EU transport, and also takes a look at the relative significance and ranking of airports.

Full article

Progressive growth in air transport of passengers in the course of 2019

In 2019, the total number of passengers travelling by air in the European Union could be established at 1 034 million, an increase of 3.8 % compared with 2018 as presented in Table 1.

Figure 1 shows the total growth of air passengers by Member State between 2018 and 2019. The disparity is particularly marked at country level, with year-on-year growths ranging from -5.1 % in Slovenia to +14.5 % in Austria.

Figure 1: 2018/2019 change in total passenger air transport by Member State (in %)
Source: Eurostat (avia_paoc)

In 2019, Paris Charles De Gaulle became, for the first time, the largest EU-27 airport in terms of both passenger transport and freight and mail.

Figure 2 shows the year-on-year monthly growth in air passenger transport for 2019 in the EU-27. It underlines the continued growth in air transport passengers in 2019: the four quarters of 2019 show an increase in the growth compared with the corresponding quarters of 2018 (+5.0 %, +4.8 %, +2.9 % and +2.8 % respectively).

Figure 2: EU-27 monthly growth in air passenger transport, 2018/2019
Source: Eurostat (avia_paoc)

Table 1: Overview of EU-27 air passenger transport by Member States in 2019: passengers carried (in 1000)
Source: Eurostat (avia_paoc)

Total passenger transport to/from Extra-EU-27 represented half of the total air passenger transport

Figure 3 indicates that the extra-EU share in total transport could be established at 50 %. It was the main destination ahead of intra-EU transport (34 %) and domestic passenger transport (16 %).

Figure 3: Overview of EU-27 air passenger transport in 2019
Source: Eurostat (avia_paoc)

International intra-EU traffic at country level, as set out in Table 2, shows that for 2019 (compared with 2018), the top ten Member State-to-Member State flows completely changed due to the United Kingdom leaving the European Union on 31 January 2020. The United Kingdom used to be the country the most represented, being involved in half of the top ten routes. Among the top ten routes, Germany is involved in five, the most significant one being the traffic between Spain and Germany which represents almost one quarter of the top ten passenger routes. All routes show increases between 2018 and 2019 from 3.3 % to 8.5 %.

Table 2: Intra-EU traffic at country level: top-10 country pairs represent 40 % of 2019 intra-EU traffic
Note: See methodological notes
Source: Eurostat (avia_paocc)

Map 1 gives an overall picture of the extra-EU market. With a 24 % increase between 2018 and 2019, Australia is the world region partner with the highest increase in EU passenger transport. Asian Republics of the Ex-USSR also recorded a significant increase (+18.2 %) for the 2nd consecutive year, after a decrease over several years. The Indian Sub-Continent is the only world region that registered a decrease (-8.2 %).

Map 1: Extra-EU-27 transport of passengers in 2019
Source: Eurostat (avia_paexcc)

Table 3 shows that Paris Charles de Gaulle predominates among EU-27 airports, with the highest total of passengers transported by air (76 million passengers in 2019). It was followed by Amsterdam Schiphol (72 million), Frankfurt Main (70 million), Madrid Barajas (60 million) and Barcelona El Prat (52 million), the only airports registering over 50 million passengers.

Table 3: Top airports in the EU-27 in terms of total passengers carried in 2019
Source: Eurostat (avia_paoa)

Although for a number of airports the total number of flights decreased (9 airports out of 40), total passenger numbers increased for almost all airports in 2019 compared with 2018. There was a slight decrease for only four airports, Ljubljana (-5.1 %), Stockholm (-4.5 %), Paris Orly (-3.8 %) and Copenhagen (-0.2 %).

Map 2 presents the top ten airport pairs within the EU-27. It is worth noting that all routes are domestic ones. The route between Roma Fiumicino and Catania shows a decrease of 7.8 % in 2019, contrasting with the 6.8 % rise observed for the route between Palma de Mallorca and Madrid Barajas.

Map 2: Top ten airport pairs within the EU-27 in 2019
Source: avia_par

Air freight and mail transport: decreasing international transport between 2018 and 2019

The impact of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union on 31 January 2020 is reflected in air freight and mail transport figures at EU level. After several years of growth, a change of -4.1 % was recorded both for total transport and extra-EU in 2019 compared with 2018. Between 2018 and 2019, domestic freight and mail transport recorded an increase of 0.5 %, while intra-EU freight and mail transport reported a decrease of 5.3 %. Table 4 shows that the evolution of freight and mail transport by air between 2018 and 2019 varies significantly at country level, with growths ranging from -30.9 % in Malta, to +14.4 % in Finland.

Table 4: Overview of EU-27 air freight and mail transport by Member States in 2019: freight and mail loaded/unloaded (in tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (avia_gooc)

In the EU-27, Paris/Charles de Gaulle became the main European airport in terms of freight and mail loaded/unloaded. Frankfurt Main became the second largest European airport for freight and mail after one year at the top. Among the top 20 airports, 14 countries registered a decrease between 2018 and 2019 in terms of total freight and mail loaded/unloaded. Amsterdam Schiphol recorded the biggest drop of -7.9 %, with a drop of -12.0 % in the number of freight flights.

Helsinki Vantaa shows an increase of 15.1 % in terms of freight and mail loaded/unloaded between 2018 and 2019.

Table 5: Top 20 airports in the EU-27 in terms of total freight and mail loaded/unloaded in 2019 (in tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (avia_gooa)

Air transport in EFTA and candidate countries

All EFTA and candidate countries recorded an increase in terms of passengers transported with the exception of Iceland, which showed a decrease of 25.4 %. The evolution of freight and mail transport by air between 2018 and 2019 varies significantly, with changes ranking from -17.2 % in Serbia to +9.6 % in Turkey.

Table 6: Overview of air passenger transport in EFTA and Candidate countries in 2019 (in 1000 passengers and in tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (avia_paoc) Eurostat (avia_gooc)

Map 3: Air passenger transport flows between EFTA, candidate countries and the EU-27 in 2019 (in 1000 passengers)
Source: Eurostat (avia_paoc)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

Main definitions

The definitions used for air transport statistics are included in Regulation (EC) No 1358/2003 of 31 July 2003 implementing Regulation (EC) No 437/2003 of 27 February 2003 on statistical returns in respect of the carriage of passengers, freight and mail by air. The main definitions are the following:

  • On Flight Origin and Destination (OFOD):

Traffic on a commercial air service identified by a unique flight number subdivided by airport pairs in accordance with the point of embarkation and point of disembarkation on that flight. This is linked to the definition of passengers carried.

  • Passengers carried:

All passengers on a particular flight counted once only and not repeatedly on each individual stage of that flight. This excludes direct transit passengers.

  • Freight and mail loaded/unloaded:

All freight and mail loaded onto or unloaded from an aircraft. This excludes direct transit freight and mail. In principle, information provided in this article is based on On Flight Origin/Destination (OFOD) data. Only when OFOD data have not been reported have airport declarations been used.

  • Airport coverage:

In principle, this article covers air transport to and from any airports in the reporting countries with more than 150 000 passengers annually.

Notes on some reporting countries

  • Turkey: only provides flight stage data (Dataset A1) (in which there is no information on passenger carried and freight and mail loaded/unloaded) and airport declarations (Dataset C1) in which the partner airport is not provided. National and international transport cannot be calculated.

Double counting: the national aggregates and total intra-EU-27 aggregates exclude any double counting. It includes all the departures figures reported plus "a part of" arrivals declarations, "a part of" including those arrivals declarations for which the corresponding departures declarations of the partner airport are missing.

Table 1: the figures (and related shares) for the countries flows have been calculated by excluding the double counting at country-to-country route level. The figures are derived from table avia_paocc; the double counting for identical routes is excluded in order to obtain the correct total for country pairs. The data can be extracted from the aviation domain of the Eurostat on-line database or obtained upon request.

Map 1: the component countries comprising the world regions as defined for this map are based on the geonomenclature used by Eurostat for external trade statistics. The components of each world region can be extracted from the aviation domain of the Eurostat on-line database or obtained upon request. Some care should be taken in drawing conclusions as regards world regional shares due to the fact that passengers who either stop-over or change planes en-route will be allocated to the country in which they made their connections and not to the country of first origin or final destination.

Map 2: the total figures for each pair of airports have been calculated by adding together the ‘Departures’ declarations of the two airports concerned.

Map 3: the share of total transport represents, for each candidate country and each EFTA country, the share of total transport to/from EU countries. As indicated under the maps, transport to/from EU countries is sometimes estimated on the basis of mirror EU declarations.

In this article

  • ":" means "not available"
  • "-" means "not applicable"
  • "0.0" means "less than half the unit used"
  • "0" means real zero


All figures presented in this article have been extracted from the Eurostat aviation database. The database is available online from the Eurostat web page.

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Air transport (t_avia)
Air transport of passengers (ttr00012)
Air transport of goods (ttr00011)
Air transport (avia)
Air transport measurement - passengers (avia_pa)
Detailed air passenger transport by reporting country and routes (avia_par)
Air transport measurement - freight and mail (avia_go)