Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe describes a market “polarised by externalities” as holiday traffic bounces back whilst war takes its toll.
BRUSSELS – European airport trade body ACI Europe released its air traffic report for August 2022. Passenger traffic across the European airport network increased by +51% in August compared to the same month last year, with the surge mostly driven by international passenger traffic (+70%) as restrictions to cross-border travel both within Europe and to most external markets had lifted. Domestic passenger traffic (+8%) grew at a much slower pace.
When compared to pre-pandemic (August 2019) levels, passenger traffic in August stood at -12%, a further improvement on the previous months (July at -14.4% and June at -17.3%) and the best monthly performance since the start of the pandemic.
EU+ market on the lead and war impact visible
The EU+ market1 kept driving the recovery, with passenger traffic at airports in the bloc increasing by +64% in August compared to the same month last year. The best performances came from airports in the UK (+178%), Finland (+175%) and Ireland (+147%), reflecting the fact that Governments in these countries had been slower to ease travel restrictions last year.
When compared to pre-pandemic (August 2019) levels, airports in Greece (+4.5%), Luxembourg (+6.4%) and Iceland (+0.2%) achieved a full passenger traffic recovery in August. Meanwhile, airports in other large tourism markets including Portugal (-5.8%), Spain (-7.4%), Italy (-8.5%) and Croatia (-8.6%), along with those in Romania (-6.8%) and Lithuania (-7.8%) came closest to a full recovery. Conversely, airports in Slovenia (-40.1%), Finland (-37.7%), Latvia (-31.1%), the Czech Republic (-30.5%) and Bulgaria (-29.3%) significantly outperformed, in large part a reflection of the impact of the war in Ukraine and related sanctions against Russia and Belarus. Amongst larger markets, the performance of airports in France (-13.5%) and Germany (-14.2%) was similar, with those in the UK (-19%) still lagging behind.
Overall, the EU+ market stood at -14% in August compared to pre-pandemic (August 2019) volumes.
At airports in the rest of Europe2, passenger traffic only increased by +7% when compared to the same month last year. This mostly reflected the effects of the war – with the loss of all commercial air traffic for Ukrainian airports, declining passenger volumes airports in Belarus (-16.6%) and Russia (-17.2%) as well as flat results for those in Moldova (-0.3%).
When compared to pre-pandemic (August 2019) levels, passenger traffic in the rest of Europe stood at -16%. Airports in Albania (+60.3%), Bosnia-Herzegovina (+31.2%), Kosovo (+22.7%) and Armenia (+21.4%) far exceeded their pre-pandemic volumes, while those in the major market of Turkey (-4.5%) came close to a full recovery. At the other end of the spectrum, airports in Belarus (-60.6%) and Moldova (-20.4%) registered steep declines, with those in Russia (+5.7%) still managing to remain above their pre-pandemic volumes as passenger traffic shifted to domestic and non-EU+ routes.
Recovery patterns shaping airport performance
Passenger traffic at the Majors (top 5 European airports) grew by +68.1% in August compared to the same month last year, but remained -17.5% below pre-pandemic (August 2019) 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 (August 2019) levels (+1%). Its passenger traffic increased by nearly +50% 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% and +69.5% respectively for the British and French hubs compared to the same month last year – and remained for both at about -20% below pre-pandemic (August 2019) levels.
- Capacity restrictions limited passenger traffic to 5.33 million at Amsterdam-Schiphol (+40.7% compared to the same month last year / -21.8% compared to August 2019) and to 5.19 million at Frankfurt (+54.1% compared to the same month last year / -25% compared to August 2019).
The performance of selected other large airports in August reflected a Summer recovery still mainly driven by intra-European and transatlantic routes, and dominated by leisure demand:
- Antalya handled just 6,000 passengers less than major hub Frankfurt and was the 6th busiest European in August (-7.5% compared to August 2019).
- Paris-Orly exceeded its pre-pandemic (August 2019) passenger volumes by +7.2%.
- Palma de Mallorca (-2.8%), Lisbon (-5.8%), Athens (-6.1%), London-Stansted (-9.3%) and Dublin (-10.2%) came closest to a full recovery of their pre-pandemic (August 2019) passenger volumes.
Meanwhile, the fact that regional and smaller airports3 also came close to a full passenger traffic recovery (-4.7% for airports with less than 10 million passengers per annum when compared to August 2019) also reflected the same dynamics – along with the significant capacity expansion from Ultra-Low Cost Carriers.
There were however significant variations in performance amongst regional airports, with those serving popular tourist destinations and/or relying on Low Cost Carriers seeing passenger volumes exceeding pre-pandemic (August 2019) levels – including: Oradea (+124.9%), Turin (+64.6%), Zadar (+55.4%), Santorini (+41.1%), Kutaisi (+26.6%), Trieste (+23.8%), Kerkyra (+20.6%), Harstad (+15.9%), Chania (+18%), Rotterdam (+12%), Naples (+12.7%), Santander (+12.1%), Billund (+9.7%), Olbia (+9%) and Charleroi (+9%).
Said Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe, “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”.
Aircraft movements increased by +27% across the European airport network compared to the same month last year, with airports in the EU+ markets at +34% and those in the rest of Europe at -2%.
Data by airport groups
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 adjustment of -16.6%, -15.8%, -5.5% and -3.3%, as compared to pre-pandemic traffic levels (2019). The airports that reported the highest increases in passenger traffic for July 2022 (when compared with July 2021) are as follows:
- Group 1: Paris ORY (+7%), Istanbul IST (+1%), Palma de Mallorca (-3%), Athens & Lisbon (-6%) and Antalya (-8%).
- Group 2: Naples (+13%), Catania (+2%), Gran Canaria (+1%), Tenerife South (-1%) and Marseille (-2%).
- Group 3: Sochi (+122%), Charleroi (+9%), Rhodes (+6%), Bologna, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote (+5%), and Palermo (+3%).
- Group 4: Torino (+65%), Tirana (+60%), Santorini (+41%), Santiago–Rosalía de Castro (+27%) and Prishtina (+23%).
1 EU, EEA, Switzerland and UK.
2 Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
3 Airports with less than 5 million passenger per annum (2019).
Tatiana is the news coordinator for TravelDailyNews Media Network (traveldailynews.gr, traveldailynews.com and traveldailynews.asia). Her role includes monitoring the hundreds of news sources of TravelDailyNews Media Network and skimming the most important according to our strategy.
She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication & Mass Media from Panteion University of Political & Social Studies of Athens and she has been editor and editor-in-chief in various economic magazines and newspapers.