Air transport supports 12.2 million jobs and $823 billion in European economic activity. That is 3.3% of all employment and 4.1% of all GDP in European countries in 2016.


Every person employed by the aviation sector directly, and in aviation enabled tourism, supported another 4.7 jobs elsewhere in Europe. Similarly, $4.30 of economic activity was supported elsewhere in Europe for every $1 directly created by the air transport sector.

The aviation sector in Europe employed an estimated 2.6 million people directly in 2016. Analysis of these workers suggests:

  • 519,000 (20% of the total) were employed by airlines or handling agents as flight crew, check-in staff, maintenance crew, or head office staff
  • 166,000 (6.5%) had jobs with airport operators in roles such as airport management, maintenance, and security
  • 1.5 million (57.5%) worked on-site in airports in retail outlets, restaurants, and hotels
  • 341,000 (13%) were employed in civil aircraft manufacturing, including systems, components, airframes, and engines
  • 77,000 (3%) worked for air navigation service providers in jobs like air traffic control and engineering

Airlines, airport operators, retailers and other on-site businesses, as well as air navigation services and civil aircraft manufacturers, all contribute to European GDP. In 2016, the operations of these businesses generated a $193 billion directly to GDP.

The aviation sector’s spending with suppliers is estimated to have supported a further 3 million jobs and a $226 billion contribution to GDP. In addition, spending by those employed in the aviation sector and its supply chain supported nearly 1.5 million more jobs and contributed $111 billion to GDP.

The aviation sector also facilitates a substantial amount of tourism in Europe. This stimulates still more economic activity, as tourists spend their money in restaurants, hotels, retailers, tour operators, and on other consumer goods and services. In 2016, spending by foreign visitors who flew to European countries supported an estimated 5.1 million jobs and contributed $293 billion to GDP.