European airlines lost approximately $2.5 billion in revenue as a result of the 2015-2016 terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, according to a new IATA study. European international passenger traffic fell approximately 1.6% in the year following the incidents.
The impact of the incidents proved temporary, however, as European airlines’ international traffic began recovering in June 2016, and soon picked up to exceed the pre-incident trend pace, IATA said. “This was helped by a pick-up in global and regional economic conditions, as well as a broader stimulus from lower airfares,” IATA senior economist David Oxley said. “All told, European airlines’ international traffic had recovered above its trend level by the end of 2016.”
IATA noted that traffic on the Europe-Asia market has not returned to the seasonally adjusted growth trend in place before the November 2015 attacks in Paris and the Brussels Airport bombing in March 2016. “Outbound travel from Asia is known to be particularly sensitive to shock events,” Oxley said.
Industry-wide RPKs grew at a 7.4% pace in 2016. If the terrorist incidents had not happened, IATA estimated the 2016 pace would have grown at 7.8%. European airlines’ international traffic accounts for approximately 24% of industry-wide RPKs.
The relatively quick resumption of international air passenger traffic for European airlines in mid-2016 was similar to the rebounds seen following the SARS pandemic in 2003 and the Icelandic ash cloud in 2010, IATA reported. “This underlines the resilience of air passenger demand to short-lived shock events,” Oxley said.
But the report also pointed out that several much larger shocks that occurred in the past 25 years—9/11, the early 2000s dot-com bust and the global financial crisis of 2008—have permanently impacted passenger traffic demand and growth for European international traffic. “International RPKs flown by European airlines remain around 30% lower than where they would have been if they had followed the trend growth path that they were following during the early to mid-2000s,” Oxley said.