November 4 2022  |  Airlines & Airports

European passenger volumes rise, says ACI Europe

By GTR Magazine Staff

The EU+ market continued to drive recovery, with passenger traffic at airports in the bloc increasing by +74% in Q3 compared to the same period in 2021

Airport International Council (ACI) Europe has released its airport traffic report for the third (Q3) and September 2022.

Passenger traffic across the European airport network increased by +61% in Q3 compared to the same period last year. International passenger traffic (+84%) drove the surge as largely unrestricted cross border travel led to a boost in leisure and VFR travel over the peak summer months. Domestic passenger traffic (+14%) dropped, but is still showing dynamic movement.

When compared to pre-pandemic (2019) levels, passenger traffic in Q3 stood at -12%, a significant improvement over Q2 (-17%) and Q1 (-39%).

EU+ market surges in Q3

The EU+ market continued to drive the recovery, with passenger traffic at airports in the bloc increasing by +74% in Q3 compared to the same period in 2021. Best performances come from airports in the UK, Finland and Ireland.

When compared to pre-pandemic (2019) levels, airports in the EU+ market were at -13%, with significant variations in recovery performance:

  • Airports in Greece (+4.8%), Luxembourg (+3.3%) and Iceland (+1%) exceeded their pre-pandemic passenger volumes
  • Airports in prominent tourism markets including Portugal (-1.8%), Spain (-7.8%), Croatia (-9.3%) and Italy (-11.4%) generally outperformed the EU+ average, along with those in Romania (-4.8%), Lithuania (-7.6%), Ireland (-10%) and Poland (-11.2%), where significant Ultra-Low Cost Carrier capacity expansion was often a major contributor
  • Airports in the largest EU+ aviation markets recovered at a slower pace - with France (-14.1%) posting the best results followed by the UK (-18.1%) and Germany (-25.9%). The exposure of these markets to intercontinental traffic (especially to Asia) as well as airport capacity restrictions at selected hubs in the UK and Germany acted as recovery‑limiting factors
  • Meanwhile, airports in Finland (-35.4%), Czech Republic (-30.9%), Latvia (-28.7%) and Bulgaria (-27.7%) significantly lagged behind, in large part due to the impact of the war in Ukraine and related sanctions against Russia and Belarus

At airports in the rest of Europe, passenger traffic increased by +18% in Q3 when compared to the same period last year. The performances came from airports in Israel (+164.4%), while the loss of all commercial air traffic for Ukrainian airports and declining passenger volumes in Belarus and Russia dropped the average from the non-EU+ bloc.

When compared to pre-pandemic (Q3 2019) levels, passenger traffic in the rest of Europe stood at 9%. Airports in Albania (+60%), Kosovo (+26.3%), Bosnia-Herzegovina (+23%), Northern Macedonia (+3.3%) and Montenegro (+0.4%) exceeded their pre-pandemic volumes, while those in the major market of Turkey (-6.6%) as well as in Serbia (-4.4%) and Georgia (-2.9%) came close to a full recovery. Airports in Belarus (-60.1%) registered steep declines, with those in Russia (+3.4%) still managing to remain above their pre-pandemic volumes as passenger traffic shifted to domestic and non-EU+ routes.

Recovery patterns to note

Passenger traffic at the majors (top 5 European airports) grew by +79.4% in Q3 compared to the same period last year.

  • Istanbul was the busiest European airport and the only major European hub whose passenger volumes exceeded pre-pandemic (Q3 2019) levels at +3%. Its passenger traffic increased by nearly +56.1% when compared to Q3 2021
  • London-Heathrow came second followed by Paris-CDG. Volumes increased by +187.1% and +83% respectively for the British and French hubs compared to Q3 last year – standing at -18.4% and -19.9% respectively below pre-pandemic (Q3 2019) levels
  • Paris-Orly (+3.7%) exceeded its pre-pandemic (Q3 2019) passenger volumes
  • Palma de Mallorca (-2.4%) and Athens (‑5%), came closest to a full recovery of their pre-pandemic (Q3 2019) passenger volumes – along with Lisbon (-5.2%), Antalya (-8.2%) and London-Stansted (-9.6%)
  • Madrid only handled 2% less passengers than Frankfurt and was the 6th busiest European airport in Q3 (-14.5% compared to Q3 2019

September sees extended traffic momentum

In September passenger traffic across the European airport network stood at -12% when compared to pre-pandemic (September 2019) levels.

Airports in the EU+ markets continued to improve and posted their best monthly recovery performance at -12% (vs. -14% in August). Airports in the rest of Europe also made further gains at -15% (vs. -16% in August).

Freight & aircraft update

Freight traffic across the European airport network decreased by -1% in Q3 compared to the same period last year, with EU+ airports seeing freight traffic at -1% and those in the rest of Europe at -4%. Overall freight traffic increased by +6% compared to (Q3 2019) pre-pandemic levels.

Aircraft movements increased by +31% in Q3 across the European airport network compared to the same period last year, with airports in the EU+ market at +37% and those in the rest of Europe at +9%.

As reported by Airport Groups

During Q3, 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 -14%, -14.9%, -4.5% and -3%.

The airports that reported the highest increases in traffic for Q3 2022 are as follows:

Group 1: Paris ORY (+4%), Istanbul IST (+3%), Palma de Mallorca (-2%), Athens & Lisbon (-5%) and Antalya (-8%)

Group 2: Naples (+10%), Catania (+3%), , Porto (+2%), Gran Canaria & Tenerife South (-1%) and Saint Petersburg (-2%)

Group 3: Sochi (+123%), Charleroi (+9%), Rhodes (+7%), Fuerteventura & Lanzarote (+5%) and Palermo (+3%)

Group 4: Tirana (+60%), Santorini & Memmingen (+37%), Funchal (+30%), Iasi (+28%) and Torino & Prishtina (+26%)

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