European airports association and lobby group, ACI Europe says that thanks to an excellent summer vacation, when travellers from around the world thronged various European destinations, airport traffic in August in European airports was now very close to the pre-pandemic peaks as it had recovered to 88 pc of the level in August 2019.
ACI Europe air traffic report for August 2022 says that passenger traffic across the European airport network increased by 51 pc in August compared to the same month last year, with the surge being almost entirely driven by international passenger traffic that grew by 70 pc as restrictions to cross-border travel both within Europe and to most external markets had lifted. Domestic passenger traffic grew at a much slower pace of 8 pc in the month.
When compared to pre-pandemic levels of August 2019, passenger traffic in August stood 12 pc below, a further improvement on the previous months, when July was 14.4 pc below and June 17.3 pc below the peak. August 2022 also saw the best monthly performance since the start of the pandemic.
EU+ market on the lead and war impact visible
ACI Europe report says that the EU+ market kept driving the recovery, with passenger traffic at airports in the bloc increasing by 64 pc in August compared to the same month last year. The best performances came from airports in the UK (up 178 pc), Finland (up 175 pc) and Ireland (up 147 pc), reflecting the fact that Governments in these countries had been slower to ease travel restrictions last year.
A few airports registered growth beyond the pre-pandemic levels, as well. When compared to pre-pandemic levels of August 2019 levels, some airports have crossed them with Greece up 4.5 pc, Luxembourg up 6.4 pc and Iceland was up 0.2 pc. Meanwhile, airports in other large tourism markets came close to the August 2019 levels, says the report. Portugal was 5.8 pc below, Spain 7.4 pc), Italy 8.5 pc and Croatia was 8.6 pc below. Conversely, airports in Central Europe were much lower than their levels in August 2019. Slovenia was off 40.1 pc, Finland 37.7 pc, Latvia 31.1 pc, the Czech Republic 30.5 pc and Bulgaria 29.3 pc, in large part a reflection of the impact of the war in Ukraine and related sanctions against Russia and Belarus.
Amongst larger markets, airports in France (off 13.5 pc), Germany (off 14.2 pc) and the UK (off 19 pc) were still lagging behind.
Top 5 European airports
The report says that passenger traffic at the top 5 European airports grew by 68.1 pc in August compared to the same month last year, but remained 17.5 pc below pre-pandemic levels, mainly due to continued travel restrictions in parts of Asia.
- Istanbul was once again the busiest European airport – welcoming 6.8 million passengers during the month. The airport was the only major European hub whose passenger volumes exceeded pre-pandemic levels, up 1 pc. Its passenger traffic increased by nearly 50 pc when compared to August 2021.
- London-Heathrow came second with 6.04 million passengers, closely followed by Paris-CDG with 6.02 million passengers. Volumes increased by 170.5 pc and 69.5 pc respectively compared to the same month last year, both remained about 20 pc below pre-pandemic levels.
- Capacity restrictions limited passenger traffic to 5.33 million at Amsterdam-Schiphol (up 40.7 pc) compared to the same month last year and 21.8 pc below August 2019. It was 5.19 million at Frankfurt, up 54.1 pc compared to the same month last year and 25 pc lower than August 2019.
“August’s snapshot shows us how polarised the situation is becoming for Europe’s airports as they are dominated by externalities. On the one hand, the public appetite to travel is undimmed – as the holiday surge shows. On the other hand, we have the reality of war. The simple fact of geography is going to have a heavy hand in our members’ fortunes for some time to come it seems,” says Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe.