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ACI Europe: Airport Passenger Numbers Picking Up in 2022 But Threats Remain

Photo source: WTTC

ACI Europe, the trade association representing some 500 airports in Europe, recently revised upwards its passenger traffic forecast for the year 2022 and beyond.

According to the association, a full recovery to pre-pandemic volumes is now expected for 2024 rather than 2025.

“At the moment, the performance of passenger traffic is trending along our high-case optimistic scenario on the back travel restrictions lifting across many markets and strong Summer pent-up demand,” ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec said.

According to the association’s latest forecasts for 2022, passenger traffic at Europe’s airports is now expected to be 22 percent down on 2019 levels, compared to a previous forecast of -32 percent published in October 2021.

Olivier Jankovec

ACI EUROPE Director General Olivier Jankovec

Despite the optimistic forecast, ACI said that European airports will still have 540 million fewer passengers than in 2019 – resulting in a cumulative loss since the beginning of the pandemic of 3.7 billion passengers. This is equivalent to the total passenger growth achieved over 36 years prior to the pandemic.

Positive forecast comes with hefty warnings

The airport association also sounded a loud note of caution, pointing to the “triple jeopardy” of the return of geopolitics, worsening economic conditions and the threat of new Covid variants as creating significant uncertainty and traffic downside risks.

Photo source: ACI EUROPE

Photo source: ACI EUROPE

ACI EUROPE also said that the recovery was being still largely driven by leisure traffic and fuelled by ultra-Low Cost Carrier capacity expansion, and highlighted staffing issues disproportionately affecting larger airports.

“The history of the past three years suggests caution, especially as we still do not have an established playbook in Europe – let alone globally – on how to deal with future Covid-19 variants when it comes to travel. And beyond the immediate operational challenges from staffing issues, there is no escape from rising geopolitical tensions and stagflation fears meaning risks for air traffic only go one direction – down,” Jankovec said.

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