ACI Europe: international demand close to 2019

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Passenger traffic on the European airport network increased by +28.3% in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period last year, international traffic (+32.2%) growing twice as fast as domestic traffic (+16.6%) according to the latest statistics fromACI Europe. A trend that could however reverse after summer.

The pace of growth slowed in the second quarter of 2023 (+16.3%) compared to the first quarter (+49%), reflecting according to the European branch of Airport Council International (AIT), the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic-related restrictions on intra-European travel “had been largely lifted in April last year”. The volume of passengers was established in the first half at -7.7% compared to levels before the health crisis (2019), “constantly improving over the period, going from -11% in January to -5.9% in June”.

Airports in the EU+2 market (+28.7%) and the rest of Europe (+26.4%) increased passenger traffic in H1 2023 to a similar rhythm compared to last year. But compared to pre-pandemic levels (H1 2019), airports in the rest of Europe (-2.1%) came closest to a full recovery, the EU+ market (-8.7% ) “being left behind”.

In June, the best passenger traffic performance in the EU+ market came from the airports of Greece (+14.2%), from Iceland (+9.3%), from Luxemburg (+8.7%), from Portugal (+8.1%) and Poland (+6.3%) . Conversely, airports in Finland (-32.2%), Slovenia (-31.9%),Germany (-21.7%), Bulgaria (-20.5%) and Sweden (-18.8%) remained well below their pre-pandemic levels.

ACI Europe underlines that among the most important markets, the italian airports (+1.9%) posted the best results, followed by those ofSpain (-2.8%), from United Kingdom (-6%) and France (-8.3%) – German airports being clearly “an aberration”. Turning to the rest of Europe, the best passenger traffic performance in June came from airports in Albania (+114.6%), supported by the expansion of ultra-low cost carriers – followed by those in Uzbekistan (+91.7%), Armenia (+87.6%), and Kazakhstan (+43.6%) “which benefited from Russian traffic which turned away from the EU+ market”. At the same time, the airports of Türkiye (+0.6%) and Russia (+0.4%) achieved a full recovery.

Olivier Jankovec, Managing Director of ACI EUROPE, said: “ Passenger traffic has rebounded over the past 6 months, moving ever closer to a full recovery. However, 2023 is not 2019. Performance vary considerably from one national market to another, and volumes remain below their pre-pandemic levels for more than half (52%) of European airports. In addition to the lasting impact of the war in Ukraine on certain markets, this is largely due to recovery patterns that have become structural. These include the impressive but selective expansion of ultra-low-cost carriers and the relative decline of full-service carriers, as well as the importance of leisure and VFR demand, as well as the displacement of a part of domestic traffic to other modes of transport “.

So far, the demand has remained “ extremely resilient in the face of continued inflationary pressures and record year-to-date airfare increases “, adds the leader. But, looking ahead and past the peak of the summer months, ” we see significant downside risks and a lot of uncertainty. These include the prospect of a deteriorating macro economy for the Eurozone and the UK as well as early signals that discretionary spending may start to decline and pandemic savings reserves are running out. “.

The passenger traffic of the Majors (top 5 european airports) in H1 remained -8.9% below its pre-pandemic levels (H1 2019), “thus underperforming the European average”. London-Heathrow (-4.3%) again became the busiest European airport in the first half, with 37 million passengers. Istanbul (+10.4%) comes in second place with 35.6 million passengers “and remains the only Major exceeding its pre-pandemic volumes”. The Turkish hub was tracked by Paris CDG (-12.6% with 31.8 million passengers), Amsterdam Schiphol (-17% with 28.7 million passengers) and Madrid (-2.7% with 28.5 million passengers). However, in June, Frankfurt (-20.1% with 26.9 million passengers) had joined the top 5 in the league, replacing Madrid in fifth position.

Amongst others major airports (more than 25 million passengers per year), the only ones to have fully recovered their pre-pandemic passenger volumes in H1 are, according to ACI Europe, “those relying on leisure/VFR demand and also benefiting from strong demand transatlantic”: Lisbon (+8.7%), Athens (+7.3%), Palma de Mallorca (+3.8%), Istanbul-Sabiha Gökçen (+1.6%) and Dublin (+1.5 %).

During this time, the regional and smaller airports (less than 10 million passengers per year) fully recovered their pre-pandemic passenger volumes in the first half (+0.4%) and closed the month of June at +2.2%. “However, there were also significant variations between these airports, with those serving popular tourist destinations and relying on low-cost carriers often showing impressive performance.” These are for S1: Trapani (+163%), Perugia (+137%), Kutaisi (+82%), Zaragoza (+57%), Memmingen (+49%), Funchal (+41%) , Lodz (+38%), Beauvais (+37%), Zadar (+23%), Ponta Delgada (+20%), Paphos (+19%) and Menorca (+18%).

The airports with the largest increases in passenger traffic in H1 compared to the same period in 2019 are:

  • GROUP 1: Istanbul IST (+10.4%), Lisbon (+8.7%), Athens (+7.3%), Palma de Mallorca (+3.8%) and Istanbul SAW (+1.6%) ).
  • GROUP 2: Milan BGY (+18.2%), Porto (+14.9%), Naples (+14.2%), Malaga (+9.3%) and Catania (+9.0%).
  • GROUP 3: Sochi (+95.1%), Almaty (+50.1%), Belgrade (+25.8%), Rhodes (+15.5%) and Krakow (+14.8%).
  • GROUP 4: Tirana (+105.1%), Yerevan (+62.6%), Memmingen (+49.1%), Vrellë/Lipjan (+44.0%) and Funchal (+41.0%).
ACI Europe: international demand close to 2019 1 Airlines and Destinations

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