German air traffic on the rise

DFS expects 2.3 percent growth in 2016

06.09.2016.- The volume of air traffic in Germany is expected to increase significantly over the previous year. After just moderate growth of 1.5 percent last year, the expert group for traffic forecasting at DFS has predicted that the dynamic upward movement of the first half of 2016 will continue during the second half of the year. By the end of June this year, German air traffic controllers had already handled 1.491 million flights, a rise of 2.8 percent over the previous year. For the entire year, DFS expects a 2.3 percent traffic increase, totalling 3.097 million flights under instrument flight rules. Despite this positive trend, the record high of 3.150 million controlled flights last seen in 2008 will not be reached before 2018. The DFS forecast for the upcoming years is an average annual growth rate of 1.1 percent.

This traffic growth in German airspace is primarily attributable to the rise in overflights, whose share rose to 38.2 percent (previous year:  37.5 per cent). Take-offs and landings also experienced a significant increase in the first half of the year. In this period, a total of 973,799 aircraft took off or landed at the 16 international airports in Germany. This constitutes a rise of 2.1 percent compared with the same period of 2015. The forecast for the entire year is an increase of 1.7 percent for take-offs and landings.

There was no overriding trend to be seen at German airports. At the large hub airports, the share of take-offs and landings experienced a slight dip in the first half of 2016, falling from 54.0 to 53.3 percent. Munich Airport noted the largest increase compared with the previous year, with a 2.5 percent rise. Düsseldorf Airport noted the second largest increase (+1.3 percent). Traffic numbers at International Access Airports 1 (IAA1) – that include Berlin Tegel, Berlin Schönefeld, Cologne Bonn and Stuttgart – grew by 4.5 percent compared with the same period a year earlier. The share of take-offs and landings grew to 42.4 percent. Cologne Bonn Airport showed the most dynamic growth rate among the IAA1 airports (+9.7 percent) followed by both Berlin airports that increased their numbers by 9.6 percent (Berlin Schönefeld + 29.2 percent, Berlin Tegel +1.9 percent). Stuttgart also noted healthy growth (+2.2 percent).

Germany's overall stable economy and the continued low oil prices were decisive factors affecting these air traffic trends. Growth in the first half of 2016 was again driven by low-cost airlines who remain very competitive on the German market. There are also a number of domestic and international issues that put these positive trends at risk. These include terrorist attacks, political tensions, strikes, long phases of bad weather and the unknown effects of the Brexit. The first half of 2016 was marked by an increase of terrorist attacks. Along with attacks at tourist destinations in North Africa and Turkey, airports were also targeted by terrorists. The risk of further attacks remains high for the second half of the year.

German holiday-makers have shifted their focus due to the tense political relations between Turkey and Russia – that have only recently improved – and the security situation at tourist spots in North Africa and Turkey. German tourists booked 29 percent fewer holidays in Turkey compared with the previous year. The attempted military coup in Turkey and the subsequent mass firings in state institutions have led to more insecurity on the part of vacationers and will intensify this trend. Spain has picked up the slack and records increasing bookings. Strong demand for Spanish destinations was good for an upward trend in overflights over Germany. This is expected to continue in the second half of the year.

In the medium term from 2017 to 2022, DFS expects weak traffic growth that remains below the numbers that will be reached in 2016. The expectation for 2017 is a total of 3.135 million IFR flights in Germany, a rise of 1.2 percent over 2016. Up to the year 2022, DFS experts expect continued growth in Germany that totals an average growth of 1 percent per year. The forecast for 2022 is for 3.296 million controlled flights in the country. This corresponds to an additional 200,000 flights or an increase of 6.4 percent compared with 2016.


DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, the German air navigation service provider, is a State-owned company under private law with 5,650 employees as at 31 December 2015. DFS ensures the safe and punctual flow of air traffic over Germany. Around 2,000 air traffic controllers guide up to 10,000 flights in German airspace every day, and about three million movements every year. This makes Germany the country with the highest traffic volume in Europe. The company operates control centres in Langen, Bremen, Karlsruhe and Munich as well as 16 control towers at international airports in Germany. In addition, DFS is represented at the EUROCONTROL Control Centre in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Additional areas of activity include consulting, provided by the Aeronautical Solutions division, and aeronautical data, grouped in the Aeronautical Information Management division.