Portugal air traffic dropped to 1998 levels in 2020

Around 345,000 flights were recorded in Portuguese airspace between January and December of last year


Air navigation company, NAV Portugal, controlled just over 345,000 flights in Portuguese airspace in 2020, the worst recorded figures since 1998.

Since the late 1990s, the company has increased the number of movements consistently every year. The maximum amount of movements recorded was in 2019, when NAV controlled 816,000 flights.

The pandemic caused a 58 per cent decline in traffic between 2019 and 2020.

NAV Portugal
Photo NAV Portugal 

Before COVID-19 hit, NAV registered 119,000 movements in January and February of last year which coincided with the previous year’s figures. In March, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the virus a pandemic, which meant flights were suddenly suspended and demand dropped significantly.

NAV experienced the effects immediately. Flights managed by the firm fell to -94 per cent in April and -92 per cent in May compared with the previous year. Traffic was still at -55 per cent during the summer months, although slight stabilisation had occurred. However, numbers fell once more at the end of last year, moving into early 2021.

Manuel Teixeira Rolo, President of NAV, said: “On the day that we mark the 22nd anniversary of NAV Portugal, it is with a mixture of sadness and pride that we face this past year. On the one hand, the pandemic crisis and all the costs and impacts that it brought to thousands and thousands of families, left us with a feeling of deep sadness and concern. On the other hand, it is with pride that we look back and see the agile, fast, resilient and professional way in which NAV has dealt with a totally unexpected situation that has never been seen in our lifetime.”

Eurocontrol – the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation – predicts that total traffic in 2021 will still sit far below the pre-pandemic figures. However, it is expected that the summer months will accelerate recovery in total flights.

The current priority for NAV is to plan for all short and long-term scenarios as Eurocontrol believes that flight numbers will not reach 2019 levels for another three years.

“Although even the most pessimistic forecasts have been decimated by the evolution of the pandemic scenario, with greater falls throughout the year than initially forecasted, we estimate that this year will be of some stability,” added Rolo.

Work on the new operating room, conducted by the air navigation firm, is still underway. The company want to continue improving its operations, so they are prepared for the post-pandemic period.