air traffic

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Map of worldwide flight routes in passenger air traffic (2009)

Air traffic is traffic with the help of aircraft , especially airplanes .

A distinction must first be made between civil and military air traffic. The civil aviation can be beyond the one hand, commercial and private flights and the other by the classification as lines - / charter traffic or traffic of general aviation ( general aviation ) differ.

First with the introduction of jet engines , then especially in the course of the liberalization of air traffic, air traffic has risen sharply and now forms an important part of modern transport infrastructure . Air traffic has grown by 5% annually in recent years.

The ground-based processing of the air traffic typically takes place via airports (or airfields ) as the departure and arrival locations. In addition, air traffic to a large extent requires a personnel-intensive and cost-intensive infrastructure, in particular air traffic control facilities . The airspace is structured for this purpose . Helicopters and special military aircraft make it possible to provide transport services safely from streets, squares or ships.

The control and monitoring of air traffic is called air traffic control .

Legal basis

International air traffic is based on the so-called freedoms of the air , which have been worked out by the ICAO . In traffic between states, due to the internationally generally recognized air sovereignty of the nation states, traffic rights must be expressly granted, which is done in around 4,000 bilateral air transport agreements worldwide. The Chicago Agreement and the Transit Agreement (both from 1944) only grant basic freedoms. Within the EU , an open sky policy with three so-called liberalization packages has eliminated the system of air transport agreements between the member states since 1993 in favor of a single air transport market.

Air traffic or the use of airspace by aircraft is free within Germany , unless it is expressly restricted by laws or other (national, European or international) regulations (Section 1 (1) of the Aviation Act (LuftVG)). Of course, there are restrictions in many respects, especially as a result of the intense influences of European law. The commercial transport of people and / or things in aircraft is now essentially subject to European law in Germany, for example Regulation (EEC) No. 2407/92, but is still subject to various German regulations such as the LuftVG , the LuftVZO , LuftBO and JAR-OPS 1/3 regulated in German. In principle, the commercial transport of people and / or things is subject to authorization.

Further legal norms, which among other things regulate the use of the airspace, can be found in the Aviation Act. The use of airports is then restricted by permits and other licensing decisions. At so-called coordinated airports of the EU, pilots must also have a special permit for take-off and landing, a so-called time slot or slot . Slots are allocated at the IATA's biannual flight schedule conferences , where air traffic is coordinated worldwide. The airspace use is otherwise controlled by air traffic control. In international passenger and goods transport, the Warsaw Convention on International Air Transport and its follow-up agreements had to be observed from 1929 ; its successor is the Montreal Convention adopted in 1999 .

Commercial air traffic is exempt from mineral oil tax , eco tax and sales tax. For non- EU traffic, this corresponds to international agreements. The introduction of the kerosene tax in domestic air traffic has been possible under EU law since January 2004 according to the Energy Tax Directive.


IATA logo

Most of the major airlines are affiliated with IATA , which comprises around 250 of several thousand airlines worldwide. The German airlines are also united in the Federation of German Airlines (BDF).

The international umbrella organization for general aviation is the IAOPA with more than 60 country representatives worldwide (e.g. AOPA-Germany ) and around 470,000 members. For the sporting part of general aviation, the world air sports association FAI also acts as the umbrella organization for almost 100 national associations.


Differentiation according to the distance to be bridged

For distances of less than 400 km, passenger air traffic is in competition with rail and road, as air passengers usually have to arrive at the airports, which are often far from the city center, at least 30 minutes before departure, so that the lead time is often more than an hour by the time it takes off, the time advantage of the higher speed of an aircraft usually cancels out. Nevertheless, many travelers prefer the plane even in this lower distance range, because subjectively it seems faster to them than sitting in a bus, car or train for hours. In this distance range, air freight traffic is restricted to express courier services. From a distance of around 400–800 km, air traffic is overall superior to the other traffic modes in terms of speed. In intercontinental traffic, air traffic cannot be replaced by means of transport of comparable speed and is more efficient in terms of energy consumption.

Air traffic as a driver of global networking

Air traffic expands the possibilities of international trade and is therefore an important export engine . In addition to the aviation and tourism sectors, this also contributes to securing, and partly to creating, jobs. Increasing globalization still requires worldwide mobility and the presence of business people in opening up new markets. Video conferences cannot adequately replace direct business contact on site. The air cargo industry allows global trade in urgent or perishable cargo and sensitive goods value. In the latter case, the focus is on independence from natural influences on land routes and the minimization of vibrations during handling and transport.

From an economic perspective, the spread of air traffic historically represents a sudden drop in transport costs between distant places in the world (transport costs are to be understood here as full costs, i.e. taking into account travel time as a cost factor). In this sense, it is not only an “export engine”, but also significantly increases the mobility of essential production factors (labor, knowledge and capital - the latter today mostly being understood in the form of machines and other means of production). Air traffic, like the railways before it and digital data traffic after it, is another leap in global productivity.

Just as air traffic has greatly reduced the importance of the previously existing modes of transport in many market segments, the relevance of air traffic is in turn reduced by the spread of digital information transmission. This is especially true for the business traveler market segment. This can be understood as " creative destruction " (see Schumpeter ).

Other advantages


Tightly limited payload capacity

The main disadvantage of air traffic is that even large aircraft can only transport small amounts of goods due to their relatively low payload capacity compared to rail or ship, or that the costs per transported unit of weight are very high compared to other transport methods. As a consequence, it can be seen that the majority of goods are transported by air for which the transport costs are insignificant compared to their other properties (that is, they are light and expensive or they have to get to their destination very quickly).

Environmental pollution

The environmental damage caused by air traffic is well known but is assessed differently. Locally, aircraft noise plays the dominant role at airfields, nationally primarily the impact on the climate .

The low payload capacity and high kerosene consumption of commercial aviation are cited to justify the environmental pollution . For example, the 420 tons of takeoff weight of a Boeing 747 include 180 tons of kerosene cargo. During the take-off and ascent phase alone, this type of aircraft burns around 5 tons of kerosene in around 20 minutes. Consumption in constant cruise is around 10 tons per hour. 30 tons of CO 2 are emitted per hour of flight. Airplanes also generate water vapor and - due to the high combustion temperatures in the engines - nitrogen oxides and ozone . Water vapor is considered to be the cause of cirrus clouds (ice clouds) in high air layers. Contrail cirrus (large, very thin cirrus) can develop from contrails.

Aircraft consumed around 5 to 6% of the world's annual oil production (as of 2006), which corresponds to around 200 million tons of kerosene per year. In contrast, within the EC, over 70% of mineral oil is used in land-based transport. The consideration of absolute values ​​in comparison to other modes of transport is, however, not meaningful, rather it depends on the actual specific consumption, i.e. converted to passenger or tonne kilometers. The utilization of the means of transport, and in the case of airplanes, the flight route also play a major role. In 2010 the Lufthansa Group consumed an average of 4.2 liters per 100 passenger kilometers at 82% occupancy, and on flights less than 800 km it was an average of 7.5 liters per 100 passenger kilometers. Despite the comparatively high occupancy rate, the consumption per person-kilometer in air traffic is significantly higher on distances of up to 800 km than in motorized individual traffic, which in Germany is predominantly carried out by cars. In 2008 in Germany, for example, with just 1.5 occupants per vehicle, i.e. only around 30 percent occupancy, 924 billion person-kilometers were achieved and 44 billion liters of fuel were consumed in return, which equates to 4.8 l per 100 person-kilometers . A particular climate-damaging effect of engine emissions is the carbon dioxide emissions and the generation of water vapor in sensitive air layers such as the stratosphere . According to a report by the Verkehrsclub Deutschland , "no form of mobility [...] is more damaging to the climate than flying." There it is assumed that air traffic contributes at least four percent to climate change; current climate research even believes that a share of nine percent is possible . According to a study commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Transport, the share of air traffic in the forecast year 2025 is only 5% of the CO 2 emissions from road traffic, despite the assumed increases . Global international aviation emissions are expected to be around 70% higher in 2020 than in 2005.

In a 2010 study based on model calculations, the premature deaths of people caused by aircraft emissions in cruise are estimated at around 8,000 per year worldwide. According to this, the proportion of the total of premature deaths due to air pollution is around 1%. On average, the victims lose 7.5 years of life to fine dust and nitrogen oxides.

A reliable comparison of the environmental damage of the various modes of transport requires an assessment of all advantages and disadvantages. What all modes of transport have in common is that the costs of so-called external effects , i.e. the burdens of those not involved in the transport process, are not or only slightly charged to the users ( internalization ). For the economic model of calculating the external costs of transport, there is as yet no complete recording and monetary assessment of the external effects on the one hand and the overall advantages for companies, travelers and society on the other.

Environmental organizations criticize the tax advantages aviation enjoys, especially considering the massive environmental impact. The Federal Environment Agency put the tax losses (2010) at 11.5 billion euros annually. The space required by airports is very large locally and often leads to public protests (see, for example, those who oppose Frankfurt airport expansion ).

A study by atmosfair from 2018 comes to the conclusion that the efficiency increases in the aviation industry worldwide are not sufficient to meet the two-degree or 1.5-degree target of the Paris Agreement and that instead new, synthetic and CO 2 -neutral fuels are used (e.g. on the basis of hydrogen) and other, even more radical measures to reduce emissions in this industry are required. Until the new fuels are in use, passengers can offset their CO 2 emissions through donations to organizations such as Atmosfair, myclimate and Klima-Kollekte .

Figures and facts for Europe

According to information from Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH (DFS), the five commercial airports within a 50 km radius of London were the busiest air traffic location in Europe with an average of 1433 daily departures. If distributed evenly over the day, this would mean that a plane takes off from London and the surrounding area every minute (24 hours of 60 minutes each). 46% of the take-offs were in London-Heathrow (659 starts), 6.5% in London City (93 starts), 24% in Gatwick. In comparison, there were an average of 667 starts in Frankfurt am Main in the same year. In 2018, flight cancellations and delays broke all records in Europe. In April 2019 it was announced that Swedavia had recorded a decrease in passenger numbers for seven consecutive months compared to the previous year.

Figures and facts for Germany

Domestic German air traffic by number of flights
Air traffic from Germany to other countries by number of flights

In 2015, a total of 2.2 million flights with 194.4 million passengers were counted at German airports. Of these, there were around 300,000 flights and 23.0 million passengers on domestic connections.

Of the main domestic flight connections in Germany, the following four connections, each with over 12,000 (commercial) flights per year, are particularly popular:

Place-1 Place-2 Flights (per year) Passengers (per year) Distance in KM
Dusseldorf Munich 000000000012615.000000000012,615 000000001557079.00000000001,557,079 488
Hamburg Munich 000000000013184.000000000013,184 000000001811395.00000000001,811,395 601
Frankfurt / Main Berlin 000000000014416.000000000014,416 000000001907104.00000000001,907,104 436
Munich Berlin 000000000014473.000000000014,473 000000001975217.00000000001,975,217 484

According to the 2015 mobility report by Deutsche Flugsicherung, 10.8% of all flight movements over Germany are domestic flights (departure and arrival point in Germany). The proportion is falling steadily in favor of the increasing number of international overflights and was still around 20% at the beginning of the millennium.

Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flights

In 2006, German air traffic control checked around 2.98 million IFR flights. That was about 4.1% more than in the previous year, and compared to 1989 the number of flights has doubled. While civil air traffic increased by 4.5% with 2.9 million controlled flights in 2006, military flights fell by 10.3% to 77,742.

Over the year, the months of May to October are those with the highest air traffic (July is the peak month) and the winter months of December to February are those with the lowest.

Of all IFR flights in 2006, overflights had the largest share at 34%. Flights with a departure or destination airport in Germany followed with 26% each. Only 14% of all flights were within Germany.

2006 2005 trend
Civil flights 2,905,033 2,779,433 + 4.5%
Military flights 77,742 86,697 −10.3%
total 2,982,775 2,886,130 + 4.1%

Flights under visual flight conditions (VFR)

In 2006, VFR flights at international airports in Germany fell by 2.7% to 128,810 (2005: 132,317). Here, Stuttgart is at the top with 17,232, while Frankfurt is at the bottom with 473 take-offs and landings.

Take-offs and landings

The number of IFR take-offs and landings from / to international airports in Germany rose by 2.6% in 2006 to 2,097,682. Frankfurt (488,665) and Munich (407,661) airports have the largest share, namely 896,326. The number of regional airports rose to 187,241 in 2006. That is an increase of 7%. The front runner here is Frankfurt-Hahn with 34,429 take-offs and landings.

2006 2005 trend
International airports 2,097,682 2,045,362 + 2.6%
Regional airports 187.241 174,982 + 7.0%
total 2,284,923 2,220,344 + 2.9%


Regional distribution of flights from Germany with an international destination in 2006

For the flights from Germany to an international destination in 2006, the presented continental distribution results. Over the past five years, direct flights to Africa have increased by 14.5%, flights to America by 27.5% and flights to Asia by 71.6%. These data refer exclusively to direct connections, but not to the actual (final) travel destination of the passenger.

Travel from German airports - boarding passengers

The number of passengers departing from German airports in the first half of 2016 rose by 1.5 million flight passengers compared to the first half of 2015.

Target area January to June change

in %

2016 2015
1,000 passengers
- = nothing available
Total boarding passengers 51 842 50 332 3.0
with destination in / in:
Germany 11 642 11 256 3.4
foreign countries 40 200 39 076 2.9
Europe 31 514 30 344 3.9
Spain 6 204 5 594 10.9
Balearic Islands 2,047 1 834 11.6
Canaries 1 535 1 404 9.3
United Kingdom 3 259 3 145 3.6
Italy 3 029 2 900 4.5
France 1 728 1,696 1.8
Greece 1 098 1 035 6.1
Greek islands 498 480 3.7
Turkey 2,758 3 185 - 13.4
Russia 778 855 - 8.9
Intercontinental traffic 8 686 8 732 - 0.5
Asia 3,935 3 787 3.9
United Arab Emirates 954 889 7.3
China (including Hong Kong) 662 634 4.3
India 311 319 - 2.4
Japan 306 314 - 2.5
Israel 278 270 2.8
Thailand 234 182 28.7
America 3,668 3,567 2.8
United States 2,385 2,357 1.2
Canada 435 435 0.0
Brazil 203 200 1.4
Dominican Republic 178 155 14.6
Mexico 160 144 11.2
Africa 1 083 1 379 - 21.5
Egypt 383 596 - 35.8
Morocco 179 197 - 9.2
South Africa 178 175 1.6
Tunisia 97 183 - 46.6
Australia / Oceania - - -

Facts and figures for Switzerland

In Switzerland , the number of passengers at the three national airports of Zurich , Geneva and Basel-Mulhouse increased by 73 percent between 2005 and 2018; 57.6 million passengers were last carried. In 2019 this value rose to around 58.6 million. The national airline Swiss has also recorded steady growth in passenger numbers. It was able to carry 1.65 million passengers in April 2019, which corresponds to a growth of 3% compared to April 2018. According to Aerosuisse , Swiss aviation has over 190,000 jobs and annual added value of over CHF 33.5 billion. According to Philip Kristensen, Managing Director of Aerosuisse, this includes not only employment by companies in the aviation industry, but also the handling companies, suppliers and contractors outside the airport premises. The environmental and health costs from air traffic were almost entirely at the expense of the general public in 2016.

See also

Portal: Aviation  - Overview of Wikipedia content on aviation


  • Andreas Fecker : Aircraft noise. Data and facts . 1st edition. Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 2012, ISBN 978-3-613-03400-6 .
  • Wilhelm Pompl: Air traffic - an economic introduction. 2nd Edition. Springer-Verlag, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-540-54673-1 .
  • Rüdiger Sterzenbach, Roland Conrady, Frank Fichert: Air traffic - business instruction and manual. 4th edition. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-486-58537-7 .
  • Elmar Giemulla, Ronald Schmid, Walter Mölls (eds.): European aviation law. Text and material collection. Luchterhand Verlag, Neuwied 1990ff. ISBN 3-472-00203-4 (loose-leaf work)
  • I. Schöntag: The theory of contestable markets using the example of the European aviation market and its application in the low cost area. Dissertation, Munich 2006.
  • Peter Wysk , Ullrich Isermann: Air traffic. In: Jan Ziekow (Ed.): Practice of specialist planning law. Werner Verlag, Munich / Unterschleißheim 2004, ISBN 3-8041-4306-7
  • Claudia Mäder: Climate Impact of Air Traffic. Current scientific knowledge about the effects of air traffic. Dessau, March 2008 ( PDF)
  • Michael Kloepfer (Ed.): Living with Noise? , Springer 2006
  • Expert Council for Environmental Issues : Environmental Report 2008: Environmental Protection under the Sign of Climate Change , Volume 2, Hausgutachten, June 2008 (downloadable from )
  • Communication from the Commission: For a mobile Europe - Sustainable mobility for our continent. Mid-term review of the European Commission's 2001 Transport White Paper of June 22, 2006, COM (2006) 314 final.
  • Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Communication from the Commission: Reducing the climate impact of air transport , 2006 / C 185/17, OJ EC No. C 185 of 8 August 2006
  • Ingo Matuschek (Ed.): Air layers: work, organization and technology in air traffic. Edition Sigma, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-89404-563-0 .

Web links

Individual evidence and explanations

  1. European Environment Agency (Ed.): EEA Briefing 3/2004 - Transport and Environment in Europe . Copenhagen 2004.
  2. Regulation of the Council on the granting of operating licenses to air carriers of July 23, 1992 (OJ No. L 240 of August 24, 1992)
  3. EU Energy Tax Directive
  4. About IAOPA , IAOPA website, accessed on March 21, 2011.
  5. FAI Members. In: FAI , accessed April 19, 2019 .
  6. Airplane Operation Manual Boeing 747-400
  7. The combustion of 1 kg of kerosene generates approx. 3.1 kg of CO 2
  8. Communication from the Commission "For a mobile Europe - Sustainable mobility for our continent" of June 22, 2006, COM (2006) 314 final and opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on "Reducing the climate impact of aviation", 2006 / C 185 / 17
  9. Lufthansa Balance 2011 ( Memento from May 5, 2012 in the Internet Archive ), p. 2 and 64.
  10. ^ Mobility in Germany 2008. Results report , Bonn and Berlin 2010, p. 87 u. 164.
  11. ↑ in summary Mäder, Climate Impact of Air Traffic, March 2008
  12. Verkehrsclub Deutschland (2006): VCD facts on reducing the environmental impact of air traffic (available online) (PDF file; 2.1 MB)
  13. Forecast of Germany-wide transport links in 2025 , page 17
  14. Reducing emissions from aviation. European Commission, November 23, 2016, accessed June 1, 2019 .
  15. Steven Barret, Britter, Rex and Waitz, Ian: Global Mortality Attributable to Aircraft Cruise Emissions . In: Environmental Science and Technology . 44, 2010, pp. 7736-7742. doi : 10.1021 / es101325r .
  16. cf. Kloepfer (Ed.): Living with Noise? Pp. 311-338.
  17. atmosfair Airline Index 2018, (PDF).
  18. Stiftung Warentest from February 13, 2018
  19. ^ DFS air traffic in Germany. Mobility report 2011. DFS Deutsche Flug -icherung GmbH (PDF; 4.2 MB)
  20. Maike Geißler: More chaos than ever: That was the flight summer 2018 In:, October 12, 2018, accessed on October 14, 2018.
  21. Laura Frommberg: Over a third of Swiss flights delayed In: , October 14, 2018, accessed on October 14, 2018.
  22. SAS feels the Greta effect. In: April 19, 2019, accessed April 22, 2019 .
  23. Air traffic at major airports, Series 8 Series 6.1 - 2015 ,
  24. Air traffic at major airports, Series 8 Series 6.1 - 2015 ,
  25. ^ Mobility report of the German air traffic control for 2015
  26. a b c d DFS website , annual summary 2006
  27. DFS website , Mobility Report 2006
  28. Federal Statistical Office press release No. 297 of August 26, 2016: 1.5 million more flight passengers in the first half of 2016 , accessed on February 28, 2018.
  29. Gregory Remez: Trend from Sweden: How the phenomenon of flight shame conquered Switzerland. In: . May 2, 2019, accessed May 13, 2019 .
  30. Scheduled and charter traffic. In: . Retrieved May 3, 2020 .
  31. Philipp Felber: Flight shame? Not with Swiss customers. In: . May 13, 2019, accessed May 13, 2019 .
  32. The Swiss are a people of frequent fliers. In: . May 7, 2019, accessed May 19, 2019 .
  33. Alex Tiefenbacher: How many people really work in the aviation industry? In: April 6, 2020, accessed April 6, 2020 .
  34. Costs and financing of air transport. In: Retrieved May 3, 2020 .