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Almost 200 European Airports May Face Insolvency Due to Crisis in Air Travel

An estimated 193 airports may face insolvency in the coming months if passenger traffic does not start to recover by year end, ACI Europe said on Tuesday.

These airports facilitate 277 thousand jobs and 12.4 billion euros of European GDP.

“The threat of airport closure means Europe faces the prospect of the collapse of a significant part of its air transport system – unless governments step up to provide the required support. So far, few have done so,” the organization said.

Data released by ACI shows:

  • A year-on-year decrease of 73 percent in passenger traffic at Europe’s airports in September,
  • The loss of an additional 172.5 million passengers in September bringing the total volume of lost passengers since January 2020 to 1.29 billion,
  • As of mid-October, passenger traffic stood at 75 percent down from the same period last year, reaching an 80 percent decrease for airports in the EU/EEA/Switzerland/UK footprint – a clear downward trajectory.

“The figures published today paint a dramatically bleak picture,” ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec said, highlighting that eight months into the crisis, all of Europe’s airports are burning through cash to remain open, with revenues far from covering the costs of operations, let alone capital costs.

“Governments’ current imposition of quarantines rather than testing is bringing Europe’s airports closer to the brink with every day that passes,” he added.

The permanence of severe restrictions to cross border travel into the winter season has considerably worsened the traffic outlook, as reflected in ACI Europe’s latest forecast. Many airlines have slashed their capacity plans for the reminder of the year and into 2021.

Mainly regional airports in trouble

According to ACI, the airports facing insolvency are mainly regional airports which serve – and are integral to – local communities.

“The potential ripple-effect upon local employment and economies is clear,” ACI said.

Furthermore, the organization made it clear that larger European airports and hubs are not immune from the critical financial risk. “They have cut costs to the bone and have resorted to the financial markets to shore up balance sheets and build emergency war chests,” the organization noted.

According to ACI Europe, financial support from government will be crucial in averting rising geographic inequality and damaged social cohesion.

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