April passenger traffic surges close to full recovery

Recent figures from ACI Europe have shown that passenger traffic during the month of April was close to a full recovery.

ACI Europe, the European airport trade body, released its air traffic report for April 2024.

Across the European airport network, passenger traffic increased by 8.5% in April, compared to the same month in 2023. Volumes stood at just -0.2% below their pre-pandemic (2019) level – near full recovery.

Non-European Union+ Market in the lead 

The non-EU+ market1 outperformed with passenger traffic expanding by +13.4% over the same month last year, driven by bumper increases reported by airports in Kazakhstan (+150%), Albania (+67%), Uzbekistan (+54%) and those in the larger market of Türkiye (+19%) also growing dynamically.

The non-EU+ market surpassed pre-pandemic (April 2019) levels by +5.6% despite geopolitics resulting in the total loss of passenger traffic at Ukrainian airports and significant decreases at airports in Israel (-42%) and Russia (-22%). Airports in Albania (+261%), Uzbekistan (+171%), Kazakhstan (+83%) and Armenia (+86%) led the bloc’s growth dynamic compared to 2019 volumes.

Significant performance gaps across EU+ market

Meanwhile, the EU+ market2 saw passenger traffic increasing by +7.7% in April compared to the same month last year. The best performances came from airports in Estonia (+28%), the Czech Republic (+18%), Slovenia (+17%) and Poland (+17%), while the weakest ones came from those in Sweden (-0.1%), Ireland (+0.6%), Latvia (+1.8%) and Portugal (+2.4%).The EU+ market came very close to a full recovery of its pre-pandemic volumes (April 2019) at -1.1%, but with significant performance gaps amongst national markets:

  • Airports in markets relying on leisure and VFR3 demand far exceeded 2019 volumes, including those in Greece (+21.7%), Croatia (+20.9%), Poland (+20.3%), Malta (+18.5%), Iceland (+17.2%), Luxembourg (+17%) and Portugal (+13.6%). 
  • Conversely, airports in Finland (-30.6%), Slovenia (-29.5%), Slovakia (-24.1%) and Sweden (-23.6%) remained the farthest from recovering their pre-pandemic volumes.
  • Amongst the largest EU+ markets, the best performance also came from airports predominantly relying on leisure and VFR demand with Italy (+13.9%) and Spain (+10.8%) expanding on their pre-pandemic volumes, followed by the UK (-3.9%), France (-6.9%) and further behind Germany (-19.2%).

Performance variations across airport categories

Passenger traffic at the Majors4 expanded by +8.6% in April when compared to the same month last year and stood at -1.6% when compared to pre-pandemic volumes (April 2019):

  • London Heathrow (+4.8% vs. Apr 2023 | -1.4% vs. Apr 2019) remained the busiest European airport, followed by Istanbul (+10.5% vs. Apr 2023 | +22.4% vs. Apr 2019) where passenger traffic was far above pre-pandemic level. 
  • Paris-CDG (+4.8% vs. Apr 2023 | -11.5% vs. Apr 2019) came in the 3rd position, followed by Amsterdam Schiphol (+6.7% vs. Apr 2023 | -10.4% vs. Apr 2019) and Madrid (+10.6% vs. Apr 2023 | +6.7% vs. Apr 2019).
  • Rome-Fiumicino kept recording the highest growth compared to the same month last year at +26.6% (+10.8% vs. Apr 2019).

Amongst Mega and Large airports5, the highest increases in April came from Antalya (+58% vs. Apr 2023 | +8.6% vs. Apr 2019), Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen (+20.6% vs. Apr 2023 | +13.2% vs. Apr 2019), Prague (+17.3% vs. Apr 2023 | -11% vs. Apr 2019), Munich (+17.1% vs. Apr 2023 | -14% vs. Apr 2019), Athens (+16.2% vs. Apr 2023 | +21.5% vs. Mar 2019) and Budapest (+16% vs. Apr 2023 | +4.1% vs. Apr 2019).

Medium airports6 posted the best performance in April when compared to pre-pandemic (April 2019) levels at +9.4%. Airports reporting the highest increases in that category included Zadar (+105% vs. Apr 2023 | +45.3% vs. Apr 2019), Girona (+87.9% vs. Apr 2023 | -2.7% vs. Apr 2019), Tirana (+67.2% vs. Apr 2023 | +260% vs. Apr 2019), Sarajevo (+49.4% vs. Apr 2023 | +49% vs. Apr 2019), Chisinau (+44% vs. Apr 2023 | +15.3% vs. Apr 2019) and Erzurum (+43.2% vs. Apr 2023 | +22.8% vs. Apr 2019).

As in the past months, larger low cost bases kept outperforming when compared to pre-pandemic levels (March 2019): Memmingen (+76.4%), Beauvais (+72%), Bergamo (+32.5%) and Charleroi (+24.5%).
Conversely, small airports7 posted the weakest performance with a +4.4% increase in passenger traffic in April compared to the same month last year – and remained -31.5% below their pre-pandemic levels (Apr 2019). 

Freight & aircraft movement

In April, freight traffic across the European airport network increased by +12.4% over  the same period last year, with EU+ airports at +12.1% and those in the rest of Europe at +14.6%. Overall, freight traffic stood at +2.5% above pre-pandemic (April 2019) levels.

Amongst the top 10 European airports for freight traffic, the best performances in April compared to the same month last year came from: Istanbul (+42.7%), Madrid (+18.2%), Milan-MXP (+15.1%), Liège (+14.2%) and Frankfurt (+11.6%). 

Aircraft movements increased by +7.4% in April across the European airport network compared to the same period last year, and remained -4.1% below pre-pandemic levels (April 2019).

Data by airport groups

Throughout April, airports welcoming more than 40 million passengers per year (Majors), airports welcoming between 25 and 40 million passengers (Mega), airports welcoming between 25 and 10 million passengers (Large), airports welcoming between 1 million and 10 million passengers per year (Medium), and airports welcoming between 1000 and 1 million passengers (Small) reported an average change in passenger traffic of -1.6%, +2.6%, -6%, +9.4% and -31.5% as compared to their pre-pandemic (April 2019) levels.

The airports that reported the highest increases in passenger traffic (vs. April 2019) are as follows:

  • MAJORS: Istanbul IST (+22.4%), Rome FCO (+10.8%), Madrid MAD (+6.7%), Barcelona BCN (+1.7%), London LHR (-1.4%)
  • MEGA: Athens ATH (+25.1%), Istanbul SAW (+13.2%), Palma de Mallorca PMI (+11.7%), Lisbon LIS (+10.5%), Antalya AYT (+8.6%)
  • LARGE: Sochi AER (+81.6%), Milan Bergamo BGY (+28.6%), Catania CTA (+21.1%), Porto OPO (+20.0%), Naples NAP (+19.7%)
  • MEDIUM: Trapani TPS (+210.1%), Tirana TIA (+260.8%), Samarkand SKD (+171.8%), Skiathos JSI (+128.4%), Reus REU (+87.4%)
  • SMALL: Siirt SXZ (+220%), Babimost IEG (+172.3%), Baia Mare BAY (+141.1%), Castellón CDT (+139.8%), Perugia PEG (+134.6%)

Related airports

Antalya AYT, Athens ATH, Babimost IEG, Baia Mare BAY, Barcelona BCN, Castellón CDT, Catania CTA, Istanbul IST, Istanbul SAW, Lisbon LIS, London LHR, Madrid MAD, Milan Bergamo BGY, Naples NAP, Palma de Mallorca (PMI), Perugia PEG, Porto OPO, Reus REU, Rome FCO, Samarkand SKD, Siirt SXZ, Skiathos JSI, Sochi AER, Tirana TIA, Trapani TPS

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