Struggle goes on for Europe’s airports
ACI Europe reports that Europe’s airports continued to be at an almost complete stand-still during the month of May, with passenger traffic an alarming 98% down on the same period last year.
As a result, only 4.3 million passengers travelled through the European network of 500+ airports in May, compared to 216.8 million last year.
The association’s director general, Olivier Jankovec, said: “With well over half a billion passengers lost so far this year and still no revenues coming in, Europe’s airports are anxiously waiting for travel restrictions to be lifted and airlines to resume operations.
“With the epidemic now de-escalating in many countries and a plan to allow for intra-European travel – at least within the Schengen area – by the end of the month, we are finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.
“But there is no escape that the recovery will be slow and gradual – and that the post-COVID-19 aviation market will be fundamentally disrupted and structurally very different. For now, we do not see a return to last year’s traffic volumes before 2023.
“Most national authorities are quite rightly taking a phased approach, but it’s vitally important that devices such as quarantine are risk-based and proportionate.
“If quarantine is used as a blunt instrument as it is in the UK, it is one which will deliver an economic and social blow from which we will all struggle to recover.”
ACI Europe believes that all of this shows that Europe’s airports, along with airlines, are amongst the sectors hardest hit by COVID-19, and that government support is needed for them to recover.
It notes that such support is essential not just to restore the air connectivity that is underpinning the livelihood of communities, businesses and citizens – but also to safeguard the ability of both airports and airlines to invest and decarbonise.
Support for the entire aviation ecosystem
However, ACI Europe is quick to point out that governments in Europe have almost exclusively helped airlines, with more than €24 billion of financial support already approved – and yet more to come.
Meanwhile, it says, with a few notable exceptions, airports have been excluded from national aid programmes for aviation.
Airports have generally benefitted only from temporary unemployment schemes, leaving them in an extremely difficult financial situation.
France, Germany and Italy are particular cases in point, with those three countries extending a whopping €19.3 billion in financial support to their former flag carriers, without providing specific support to their airports.
Jankovec says: “Keeping airlines afloat – or rather flying, is obviously in the interest of airports. But this does not per se secure their financial viability.
“With selective governmental support not benefitting all airlines, and with no condition attached for recipient airlines to support their suppliers – including airports, the current situation creates huge imbalances in the air transport eco-system.
“This essentially brings us back to the era when the interest of airlines used to command aviation policy, with no consideration for other industry stakeholders – let alone consumers.”