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Market surges forward as EU+ airport passenger traffic doubles year on year

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Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe calls for return to 80% airport slot usage rule reflecting “critical and dynamic juncture” in the recovery from the COVID 19 pandemic.

BRUSSELS - European airport trade body ACI Europe released its air traffic report for July 2022. The report shows that passenger traffic across the European airport network increased by +70.4% in July compared to the same month last year. This was largely driven by international traffic (+102.5%) rather than domestic traffic (+11.8%).

When compared to pre-pandemic (July 2019) levels, passenger traffic in July stood at -14.4% - a further improvement compared to the previous month (-17.3% in June).

EU+ Market surging and driving passenger growth
Airports in the EU+ market1 saw their passenger traffic nearly doubling at +94.3% in July compared to the same month last year, with those in Ireland (+386.5%), the UK (+349.6%), Finland (+268.5%), Slovakia (+167.1%) and Iceland (+146.8%) seeing the highest increases.

When compared to pre-pandemic (July 2019) levels, passenger traffic at EU+ airports stood at -14.6% in July. Airports in Greece (+5.4%), Luxembourg (+2.2%) and Iceland (+1.7%) achieved a full recovery - closely followed by those in Portugal (-1.8%), Romania (-2.9%) and Lithuania (-3%). At the other end of the spectrum, airports in Slovenia (-39.5%), Finland (-33.7%), Bulgaria (-29.5%) and Germany (-29.5%) remained the farthest from achieving full recovery. Amongst other larger EU+ markets, the best performances came from airports in Spain (-7.9%) and Italy (-9.6%), followed by France (-13.5%) and the UK (-19.1%).

Meanwhile, passenger traffic at airports in the rest of Europe2 only grew by +10.8% in July compared to the same month last year. This reflects the fact these airports had lost less traffic than EU+ airports last year, as well as the war wiping out all passenger traffic at Ukrainian airports, decreasing passenger traffic at airports in Belarus (-14.3%) and Russia (-8.8%) and also limiting gains for those in Moldova (+7.1%). The best performances in the non-EU+ market came from airports in Albania (+43.8%), Armenia (+38.6%), Georgia (+36.5%), North Macedonia (+35.2%) and Serbia (+35%) – followed by those in Turkey (+27.5%).

When compared to pre-pandemic (July 2019) levels, passenger traffic in the rest of Europe was almost aligned with the EU+ market in July at -13.5%.
 
Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe said: “July has kept delivering a much needed boost in passenger traffic for most of Europe’s airports, driven by revenge - and still predominantly leisure – travel, as well as Ultra Low Cost Carriers expanding capacity well above pre-pandemic levels. As the EU+ market has been very much driving the recovery and traffic volumes are finally getting closer to pre-pandemic levels, it is essential that the EU brings its airport slots rules back to normal - requiring airlines to effectively use these slots for 80% of the time during the forthcoming Winter season starting end of October. This is precisely what the European Commission has proposed based on a thorough market analysis – with all the necessary flexibility to duly account for travel restrictions still affecting some markets. Going back to the 80% usage rule is essential at this critical and dynamic juncture in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This is about ensuring an effective use of scarce airport capacity for the benefit of air connectivity, consumers and businesses.”

Majorsa and large airports improving fast, with regionals outperforming
The Majors (top 5 European airports) saw passenger traffic doubling (+100.3%) in July compared to the same month last year – largely driven by leisure intra-European and transatlantic demand.
- Istanbul (+61.4% compared to the same month last year) remained the busiest European airport with 6.74 million passengers. It was the only Major exceeding pre-pandemic (July 2019) passenger volumes (+5.5%).
- London Heathrow came second, with passenger volumes more than tripling (+317.8%) compared to the same month last year - followed by Paris-CDG (+97.1%).
- Amsterdam-Schiphol (+70.9%) and Frankfurt (+76.5%) came in 4th and 5th position respectively - as capacity reductions needed to mitigate operational disruptions caused by staff shortages impacted passenger volumes.

When compared to pre-pandemic (July 2019) levels, passenger traffic at the Majors in July stood at -16.9%, mostly a reflection of continued travel restrictions to parts of Asia.
 
Amongst other hubs and large airports3:
Madrid (+96.6%) was less than 200 passengers short of overtaking Frankfurt.
London-Gatwick (+677%), Manchester (+482.9%), Dublin (+366%) and London-Stansted (+258.6%) all experienced exponential growth in passenger traffic.
When compared to pre-pandemic (July 2019) levels, predominantly leisure demand driven Paris-Orly (-1%), Palma de Mallorca (-1.8%), Athens (-4.9%) and Lisbon (-5.4%) posted the best results and came close to achieve a full recovery.

Regional and smaller airports also came very close to a full passenger traffic recovery in July compared to pre-pandemic (July 2019) levels, with airports with less than 10 million passengers per annum4 at -3%.

An increasing number of regional airports serving popular tourism destinations and/or relying on Low Cost Carriers saw passenger volumes well ahead of pre-pandemic (July 2019) levels - including: Zadar (+60.5%), Tirana (+57.6%), Santorini (+37.5%), Figari (+33.3%), Funchal (+28.6%), Beauvais (+23.3%), Turin (+23.7%), Chania (+21.8%), Kerkyra (+21.2%), Santiago de Compostela (+21%), Olbia (+11.4%), Memmingerberg (+12.1%), Menorca (+11.1%), Naples (+9.2%) and Charleroi (+7%).

Aircraft movements increased by +33.7% in July compared to the same period last year.

DAata by group
During the month of July, 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 -17.6%, -13.8%, -3.3% and -2.2%, 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: Istanbul IST (+5%), Paris ORY (-1%), Palma de Mallorca (-2%), Athens & Lisbon (-5%) and Antalya (-8%)
Group 2: Naples (+9%), Catania (+2%), Porto (+1%), Gran Canaria (0%) and Tenerife South (-1%)
Group 3: Sochi (+118%), Rhodes (+11%), Charleroi & Lanzarote (+7%), Heraklion & Milan LIN (+6%) and Fuerteventura & Bologna (+4%)
Group 4: Tirana (+58%), Santorini (+37%), Iasi (+34%), Prishtina (+30%) and Madeira (+29%)

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).
4 Based on 2019 traffic.

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