ACI EUROPE today released its air traffic report for February 2022, which shows that previously stalled passenger numbers due to the COVID-19 Omicron wave resumed an upward trajectory during the month.
Accordingly, compared to pre-pandemic (2019) levels, passenger volumes across the European airport network stood at -39% during the month, up from -45.7% in January.
The association’s director general, Olivier Jankovec, said: “Improvements to passenger traffic in February reflected the fact that States started to ease restrictions as the Omicron wave subsided, both at local level and those relating to travel.
“Since then, most restrictions to intra-European travel have been lifted and more external markets are opening up – meaning the traffic recovery has gathered steam.
“The outlook for the Easter holidays and into the Summer months is strong, but staff shortages, high traffic peaks and ATM capacity issues are starting to put strain on operations and to impact quality.
“Above all, there is no escaping the fact that the war in Ukraine has devastated the country’s airports and that it also comes with significant downside risks for European air traffic.”
All data reported below are against pre-pandemic (2019) corresponding periods.
EU+ MARKET IMPROVING FASTER THAN REST OF EUROPE
Airports in the EU+ market saw passenger traffic recovering to -42.4% during February, up from –51.1% in the previous month. The performance gap between national markets remained significant, mostly due to the lack of alignment on both the extent and timing of the easing of Omicron-related restrictions, but also increasing competitive dynamics.
Airports in Portugal (-23.7%), Spain (-26.8%), Luxembourg (-27.7%), Croatia (-28.9%) and Ireland (-33.8%) posted the best performance. Conversely, those in Slovenia (-63.9%), Germany (-59.6%), Sweden (-59%), Finland (-57.5%) and the Czech Republic (-55.4%) registered the largest declines.
In the rest of Europe, passenger volumes were at -20.6% in February, up from -23.8% in January. Airports in Uzbekistan (+52.7%), Albania (+21.9%) and Kosovo (+13%) clearly stood out, while those in Russia (0%) had just completed their full recovery. Airports in Turkey (-27.3%) and Georgia (-29%) posted similar results, while those in Belarus kept being heavily impacted (-59.3%) by EU sanctions.
MAJORS STILL UNDERPERFORMING
According to ACI EUROPE, the Majors (Top 5 European airports) saw passenger traffic at -43% in February, up from -48.5% in January.
Istanbul (-26.6%) remained the busiest European airport, followed by Paris-CDG (-42.3%), Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suarez (-30.7%), London-Heathrow (-47.8%) and Amsterdam-Schiphol (-45.1%).
The permanence of severe travel restrictions on many intercontinental markets – in particular Asia – also weighed on other large hubs: Munich (-61.5%), Helsinki (-60.2%), Frankfurt (-53.4%) and Zurich (-51.8%).
Meanwhile, those hubs relying predominantly on the Americas such as Dublin (-33.9%) and Lisbon (-25.4%) benefitted from the restart of the transatlantic market.
REGIONAL & SMALLER AIRPORTS OUTPERFORMING
With passenger traffic at -28.6% in February compared to –38% in January, smaller regional airports posted the best performance amongst the different segments of the airport industry.
More generally, the ability of LCCs to quickly redeploy capacity and the fact that the recovery remains largely driven by leisure and VFR demand saw selected regional and smaller capital airports significantly outperform the European average.
These airports included Batumi (+38.1%), Oradea (+12.7%), Ajaccio (-3.5%), Palermo (-7.4%), Antwerp (-10.1%), Lanzarote (-10.6%) Tenerife-South (-13.9%), Charleroi (-14.5%), Montpellier (-14.6%), Bergamo (-15.8%), Zagreb (-17.9%), Krakow (-23.2%), Antalya (-27.0%), Nice (-26.3%) and Budapest (-36.2%).
FREIGHT & MOVEMENTS
According to ACI data, freight traffic across the European airport network also improved significantly in February at +10.6%, up from -8.6% in January. Aircraft movements stood at -32.8% in February compared to -42.1% in the preceding month.
During February, airports welcoming more than 25 million passengers per year (Group 1), airports welcoming between 10-25mppa (Group 2), airports welcoming between 5-10mppa (Group 3) and airports welcoming less than 5mppa (Group 4) reported an average decline of passenger traffic compared to 2019 by -42.9%, -38.1%, -29.5% and -28.6% respectively.
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