Europe’s airports experience big rise in passenger traffic in February
Passenger numbers across Europe’s airports soared by 48% in February compared to the same month a year ago, providing further evidence of aviation’s growing recovery from the global pandemic.
ACI EUROPE, which notes that air travel in February 2022 remained constrained by Omicron-related restrictions, says that last month’s upturn in traffic was predominantly driven by international passengers (+58%), with domestic passenger travel (+22%) expanding at a much slower pace.
When compared to pre-pandemic (February 2019) levels passenger traffic in February 2023 stood at -12% – almost unchanged over the preceding month (-11% in January 2023). According to the trade body, 40% of Europe’s airports had recovered or exceeded their pre-pandemic volumes.
SIGNIFICANT PERFORMANCE VARIATIONS ACROSS NATIONAL MARKETS
With an increase of +53%, EU+ airports grew passenger traffic at the fastest pace in February compared to the same month last year, says ACI EUROPE.
This, it notes, reflects the fact that Omicron-related restrictions remained the tightest across this bloc. The highest increases came from airports in Cyprus, Malta (both at +92%) and Austria (+81%). When compared to pre-pandemic (February 2019) levels, EU+ passenger traffic stood at -12% – but with significant divergences in performance:
• Ten national markets achieved or exceeded a full recovery in February. The best performances came from airports in Portugal (+18.9%), Luxembourg (+10.9%), Cyprus (+9.7%), Malta (+5.3%) and Bulgaria (+4.9%).
• Conversely, airports in Slovakia (-46.7%), Slovenia (-38.5%) and Germany (-33%), the Czech Republic (-29.9%) and Sweden (-28.3%) remained the farthest from achieving a full recovery. This reflected a mix of factors including the impact of the war in Ukraine, the lack of penetration or loss of Low Cost Carrier traffic and industrial action.
• Among the largest EU+ markets – and aside from the underperformance of airports in Germany – airports in Spain +2.2%) posted the best results followed by those in France (-7.3%), Italy (-10.6%) and the UK (-12.9%).
At airports in the rest of Europe, reveals ACI EUROPE, passenger traffic grew by +23% in February compared to the same month last year.
However, the continued impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine weighed on performance – with the loss of all commercial air traffic for Ukrainian airports and passenger volumes increasing by just +1.5% at Russian airports.
Meanwhile, other national markets posted impressive results, including airports in Israel (+111.2%), Armenia (+91.5%), Moldova (+89.7%) and Serbia (+88.2%).
When compared to pre-pandemic (February 2019) levels, passenger traffic in the rest of Europe became aligned with the EU+ market at -11%.
Airports in Uzbekistan (+116.6%), Albania (+93.7%), Kosovo (+39.6%) and Serbia (+24.4%) far exceeded their pre-pandemic volumes. Those in the major market of Turkey (-6.8%) saw their performance affected by the devastating earthquakes that hit the country. Meanwhile, airports in Russia (+4.1%) remained above their pre-pandemic volumes as passenger traffic kept shifting to domestic and non-EU+ markets.
RECOVERY PATTERNS SHAPING AIRPORT PERFORMANCE
Passenger traffic at the Majors (top 5 European airports in 20193) grew by +55% in February compared to the same month last year, although volumes remained -11.7% below pre-pandemic (February 2019) levels.
Amongst the current top five European airports, Istanbul and Madrid remained the only ones having fully recovered their pre-pandemic (February 2019) levels. Monthly highlighs included:
• London-Heathrow went back to being the busiest European airport in February. Passenger traffic increased by +81.6% over the same month last year, allowing the British hub to reduce the gap with its pre-pandemic volumes (-5.1%).
• Istanbul came second, with passenger volumes growing by +41.6% over the same month last year and standing +4% above their pre-pandemic level. The Turkish hub was followed by Paris-CDG at +52.8% over February 2022 and -11.9% below its pre-pandemic volumes.
• Madrid kept the fourth position with its passenger traffic at +45.1% over February 2022 and +0.6% above pre-pandemic levels. Amsterdam Schiphol closed the league at +42.1% over February 2022 and -21.9% below its pre-pandemic volumes.
The passenger traffic performance of other large and capital airports in February reflected a recovery still largely driven by intra-European and transatlantic routes, fuelled by leisure demand and characterised by significant (but selective) capacity expansion from Ultra-Low Cost Carriers.
Accordingly, Lisbon (+18.8%), Tel Aviv (+13.6%) Dublin (+2.4%), Athens (+2.2%) and Palma de Mallorca (+1.1%) all exceeded their pre-pandemic (February 2019) volumes.
Meanwhile, Berlin (-44.1%), Munich (-29.3%), Helsinki (-28.1%), Prague (-28.7%), Frankfurt (-25%) and London-Gatwick (-22.3%) and Stockholm (-21.5%) remained well below.