Frankfurt Airport (FRA) welcomed some 24.8 million passengers in 2021 – a 32.2 percent increase compared to 2020 when global passenger numbers plummeted amid the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. After the third lockdown in May 2021, the easing of travel restrictions led to a noticeable recovery in demand for air travel. In particular, this positive trend was driven by European holiday traffic during the summer season. Beginning in the autumn, passenger numbers were also boosted by intercontinental traffic again. The recovery slowed somewhat towards the end of 2021, due to the emergence of the new virus variant. Compared with the 2019 pre-crisis level, FRA’s passenger volume for 2021 was still down 64.8 percent. 1
Commenting on the traffic figures, Fraport AG’s CEO, Dr. Stefan Schulte, said: “Throughout 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic continued to have a massive impact on Frankfurt Airport. Passenger traffic recovered gradually in the course of the year – even rising threefold in the April-to-December 2021 period compared to 2020. But we are still far away from the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. Cargo traffic, in contrast, saw very positive growth in 2021. Airfreight volumes in Frankfurt even reached a new annual record, despite the ongoing shortage of belly capacity on passenger flights and other challenges. This underscores our role as one of Europe’s leading cargo hubs.”
FRA’s aircraft movements in 2021 climbed by 23.4 percent year-on-year to 261,927 takeoffs and landings (2019 comparison: down 49.0 percent). Accumulated maximum takeoff weights or MTOWs grew by 18.9 percent year-on-year to some 17.7 million metric tons (2019 comparison: down 44.5 percent).
Cargo throughput, comprising airfreight and airmail, increased significantly by 18.7 percent year-on-year to about 2.32 million metric tons – the highest annual volume ever achieved in the history of Frankfurt Airport (2019 comparison: up 8.9 percent). A breakdown by the two cargo subcategories reveals that airfreight was the main driver behind this growth, while airmail continued to be affected by the lack of belly capacity on passenger aircraft.
December 2021 marked by counterbalancing trends
Some 2.7 million passengers traveled via Frankfurt Airport in December 2021. This equals a rise of 204.6 percent year-on-year, albeit compared to a weak December 2020. Overall travel demand in December 2021 was tempered by rising infection rates and new travel restrictions imposed amid the spread of the Omicron variant. However, thanks to the growth in intercontinental traffic and holiday travel during Christmas, passenger traffic sustained the recovery experienced since May 2021. In the reporting month, FRA’s passenger numbers continued to rebound to more than half of the pre-crisis level recorded in December 2019 (down 44.2 percent).
With 27,951 takeoffs and landings, aircraft movements at Frankfurt climbed 105.1 percent year-on-year in December 2021 (December 2019 comparison: down 23.7 percent). Accumulated MTOWs expanded by 65.4 percent to about 1.8 million metric tons (December 2019 comparison: down 23.2 percent).
FRA’s cargo throughput (airfreight + airmail) grew by 6.2 percent year-on-year to around 197,100 metric tons in December 2021 – thus reaching its highest monthly volume since December 2007 (December 2019 comparison: up 15.7 percent).
Regarding the traffic outlook for 2022, CEO Schulte explained: “The situation for our business will remain highly volatile and dynamic in 2022. At this stage, no one can reliably predict how the pandemic will evolve over the coming months. The related – and often inconsistent – travel restrictions will continue to put a heavy strain on the aviation industry. Despite these uncertainties, we are taking an optimistic view of the year ahead. We are expecting air travel demand to rebound noticeably again in the spring.”
Mixed picture for Fraport’s international portfolio
Fraport Group’s airports around the globe showed a mixed picture during the 2021 year. All of the international locations recorded varying growth rates compared to the weak 2020 reference year, with the exception of Xi’an in China. Traffic recovered much faster at airports focused on tourism traffic, especially during the summer season. Compared with the pre-crisis level of 2019, some Group airports in the international portfolio continued to report significant declines.
At Slovenia’s Ljubljana Airport (LJU), traffic in 2021 rose by 46.4 percent to 421,934 passengers year-on-year (2019 comparison: down 75.5 percent). In December 2021, LJU received 45,262 passengers (December 2019 comparison: down 47.1 percent). The Brazilian airports in Fortaleza (FOR) and Porto Alegre (POA) combined served about 8.8 million passengers in 2021, up 31.2 percent from 2020 (2019 comparison: down 43.2 percent). The December 2021 traffic volume for both FOR and POA reached about 1.2 million passengers (December 2019 comparison: down 19.9 percent). Traffic at Peru’s Lima Airport (LIM) grew to some 10.8 million passengers (2019 comparison: down 54.2 percent). LIM welcomed approximately 1.3 million passengers in December 2021 (December 2019 comparison: down 32.7 percent).
Fraport’s 14 Greek regional airports benefited from resurging holiday travel in 2021. Compared to 2020, traffic jumped by over 100 percent to around 17.4 million passengers (2019 comparison: down 42.2 percent). During December 2021, the Greek regional airports welcomed a total of 519,664 passengers (December 2019 comparison: down 25.4 percent). On Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, the Twin Star airports of Burgas (BOJ) and Varna (VAR) achieved a noticeable 87.8 percent increase to about 2.0 million passengers (2019 comparison: down 60.5 percent). BOJ and VAR together registered a total of 66,474 passengers in December 2021 (December 2019 comparison: down 28.0 percent).
With some 22.0 million passengers in 2021, Turkey’s Antalya Airport (AYT) recorded an increase of more than 100 percent compared to 2020 (2019 comparison: down 38.2 percent). Here too, tourist traffic made a particularly postive and strong impact during the summer months. In December 2021, AYT received 663,309 passengers (December 2019 comparison: down 23.9 percent). Russia’s Pulkovo Airport (LED) in St. Petersburg recorded a 64.8 percent rise in traffic year-on-year to 18.0 million passengers (2019 comparison: down 7.9 percent). LED attracted some 1.4 million passengers in the December 2021 reporting month, representing an increase of 67.8 percent versus the same month in 2020 (2019 comparison: up 3.3 percent). At China’s Xi’an Airport (XIY), the traffic recovery underway during the course of 2021 plunged dramatically at the end of the year – due to a strict Covid-19 lockdown in this central Chinese metropolis. Thus, XIY’s traffic reached 30.1 million passengers for the entire 2021 year, representing a decline of 2.9 percent compared to 2020. (2019 comparison: down 36.1 percent). In December 2021, traffic at XIY fell by 72.0 percent to 897,960 passengers (December 2019 comparison: down 76.2 percent).