Full passenger traffic recovery in Europe’s airports: ACI Europe

International traffic in August stood just 3.4 pc less
/ New Delhi
ACI Europe
Full passenger traffic recovery in Europe’s airports: ACI Europe

ACI Europe has also cautioned that airports across Europe will continue to report significant variations in their passenger traffic performance, at least in the medium-term

According to the ACI Europe reports, full passenger traffic recovery is finally in sight for Europe’s airports with August registering just 3.4 pc less traffic compared to the same period pre-pandemic.
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ACI Europe’s latest reports, August 2023 air traffic report and the updated Airport Traffic Forecast 2023‑2027, suggest continued passenger demand while also highlighting structural changes in the European aviation market.

According to the reports, international flow of passenger traffic across the European airport network in August stood at just 3.4 pc less compared to the same period pre-pandemic, a similar level to the one achieved in the previous month of July 2023 at 3 pc less.

When compared to August 2022, passenger volumes increased by 11.6 pc, with international passenger traffic rising by 13.2 pc and expanding at twice the rate of domestic passenger traffic of 6 pc.

The report says that passenger traffic in 2023 has reached 95.5 pc of pre-pandemic volumes of 2019, up from 91 pc in its previous forecast of December 2022.

The statement predicts a full passenger traffic recovery in 2024, compared to 2025 in the previous forecast. Accordingly, passenger traffic at Europe’s airports is set to stand at an increase of 1.4 pc over pre-pandemic levels in 2024. It adds that passenger traffic by 2027 will rise by 9.2 pc over pre-pandemic levels, only marginally higher than in the previous forecast of 9 pc.

However, ACI Europe has also cautioned that airports across Europe will continue to report significant variations in their passenger traffic performance, at least in the medium-term.

Olivier Jankovec

“What we are seeing is that not all airports are recovering at the same pace. While close to 50 pc of Europe’s airports have now exceeded their pre-pandemic passenger volumes, with some even experiencing exponential growth, all others remain below, with some still struggling to recover more dynamically. This means that many airports might not get back to their pre-pandemic volumes before 2026, or even later,” says Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe.

The statement adds that as of last August, the delta in performance against pre-pandemic passenger levels across national markets ranged from a decrease of 34 pc to more than 100 pc increase, something Jankovec said was unprecedented. “In the past, when faced with systemic shocks such as 9/11 or the global financial crisis, most airports tended to recover at a similar pace. Not this time,” he adds.

War in Ukraine and structural market changes

“This is down to the war in Ukraine and  resulting restrictions on air traffic impacting certain markets, along with structural changes in the aviation market post-Covid-19,” says Jankovec.

According to the reports, chief among these structural changes in the aviation market are:

The prominence of leisure travel & Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) demand, as well as the strength of international intra-European and transatlantic demand. Both factors are driving the evolution of airlines’ route networks, much to the benefit of airports serving popular tourism destinations or communities with extensive diasporas.

The statement adds that the selective expansion of ultra-low cost carriers and relative retrenchment of full service carriers, with the notable exception of Turkish Airlines, tends to favour secondary and regional airports rather than larger hubs.

The statement adds that the best passenger traffic performances amongst the different segments of the airport industry in August, compared to pre-pandemic levels, largely reflect these structural changes in the aviation market.

Among the top 5 European airports, Istanbul, with an increase of 12.4 pc, remained the only one having exceeded its pre-pandemic passenger levels. UK’s London-Heathrow was -1.6 pc, very close to a full recovery, thanks in large part to its strong position on the transatlantic market. It was followed by Paris-CDG -12.7 pc, Amsterdam-Schiphol at -11.1 pc and Frankfurt -15.3 pc.

Among other large airports, the best performances came from France’s Paris-Orly at +10.8 pc, Turkiye’s Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen at +8.8 pc, Greece capital Athens at +8.4 pc, Portugal’s Lisbon at +5.4pc, Spain’s Palma de Mallorca at +2.1 pc, Turkiye’s Antalya +1.4 pc and Ireland’s capital Dublin at +0.8 pc, all of them having exceeded their pre-pandemic volumes.

The statementy says that a number of airports acting as large low cost carrier bases recorded impressive increases with Italy’s Bergamo at +14.3 pc, Belgium’s Charleroi at +16.5 pc, France’s Beauvais at +46.7 pc and Germany’s Memmingen at 60.5 pc.

According to the report, several regional and smaller airports also posted passenger traffic results well above their pre-pandemic levels, including Italy’s Perugia +203 pc, Georgia’s Kutaisi with +122.1 pc, Albanian capital Tirana at +108.5 pc, Uzbekistan’s Samarkand at +99.3 pc, Croatia’s Zadar at +91.4 pc, Poland’s Lodz at +48 pc, Spain’s  Oviedo-Asturias with +42.3 pc, Portugal’s Funchal at +40.1 pc, Kosovo’s capital Pristina at +36 pc, Greece’s Santorini with +32.5 pc, England’s Bournemouth at +28.4 pc, Greece’s Kerkyra with +27 pc, Italy’s Turin with +25.3 pc and Naples with +24.3 pc.

The report adds that during the month of August, airports welcoming more than 25 million passengers per year (Group 1), airports welcoming between 10 and 25 million passengers (Group 2), airports welcoming between 5 and 10 million passengers (Group 3) and airports welcoming less than 5 million passengers per year (Group 4) reported an average performance of -6.4 pc, -8.0 pc, +5.4 pc and +3.2 pc when compared to pre-pandemic traffic levels.

Airports with the highest increases in passenger traffic for August 2023 when compared with August 2019 are as follows:

Group 1:   Istanbul IST with +12.4 pc, Paris-Orly with +10.8 pc, Istanbul SAW  with +8.8 pc, Athens with +8.4 pc and Lisbon at +5.4 pc.

Group 2:   Naples at +24.3 pc, Porto at +19.2 pc, Milan BGY with +14.3 pc,  Marseille with +10.7 pc and Málaga at +9.7 pc.

Group 3:   Sochi with +115.6 pc, Almaty at +42.9 pc, Belgrade +22.9 pc, Valencia +20.6 pc and Palermo +17.3 pc.

Group 4:   Grenoble 527.7 pc, Trapani 334.4 pc, Perugia 203.0 pc, Kutaisi 122.1 pc, San Sebastián with 109.3 pc.

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