Leisure Demand Helps Keep Athens Airport Above pre-Covid Passenger Numbers in Q1
Athens International Airport (AIA) is among Europe’s airports that are back to pre-pandemic passenger levels, according to airport trade body ACI Europe (Airports Council International Europe).
In its air traffic report for Q1 2023, ACI Europe said that by the end of March, 45 percent of Europe’s airports had recovered or exceeded their pre-pandemic volumes – up from 40 percent in February.
Referring to EU+ (EU, EEA, Switzerland and UK) airports, the European airport trade body said passenger traffic stood at -11.5 percent when compared to pre-pandemic (Q1 2019) levels but with significant divergences in performance.
“This reflects a recovery still predominantly driven by leisure and blended demand as well as selective capacity expansion from ultra-low-cost carriers, along with the impact of the war in Ukraine,” the trade body said.
Recovery driven by leisure demand, reliance on low-cost airlines
According to ACI Europe’s air traffic report, the resilience of leisure demand to inflationary pressures and higher air fares and the reliance on low-cost airline traffic resulted in a number of other large (airports with more than 25 million passengers per annum – 2019) and capital airports exceeding their pre-pandemic volumes in the first quarter: Lisbon (+13.9 percent), Tel Aviv (+14 percent), Palma de Mallorca (+2.4 percent), Athens (+2.3 percent) and Dublin (+1.9 percent).
Passenger traffic at the top 5 European airports in 2019 (London-Heathrow, Istanbul, Paris-CDG, Amsterdam-Schiphol and Frankfurt), referred to as “the Majors”, grew by +52.4 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period last year. Volumes remained -11.2 percent below pre-pandemic (Q1 2019) levels due to lower hub carrier capacity deployment and the impact of the re-opening of China still limited.
Amongst the current top 5 European airports (London-Heathrow, Istanbul, Paris-CDG, Madrid and Amsterdam-Schiphol) by traffic volume, Istanbul (+5.9 percent) and Madrid (0 percent) were the only ones having recovered their pre-pandemic (Q1 2019) levels.
London-Heathrow (-5.7 percent) re-established itself as the busiest European airport, followed by Istanbul, Paris-CDG (-13.2 percent), Madrid and Amsterdam-Schiphol (-20.8 percent).
The German hubs – Frankfurt (-23.3 percent) and Munich (-30.1 percent) significantly under-performed their peers, with lower low-cost carrier penetration and strikes being contributing factors.
Low-cost bases & selected regionals outperforming
According to ACI Europe, the same recovery patterns and market dynamics benefitted regional and smaller airports (with less than 10 million passengers per annum – 2019) where passenger traffic in the first quarter was just –4.5 percent below their pre-pandemic (Q1 2019) volumes.
Those serving popular tourist destination and/or relying on low-cost carriers posted impressive performances, including: Kutaisi (+61.4 percent), Varna (+59.1 percent), Madeira (+43.5 percent), Asturias (+36.4 percent), Memmingen (+40.3 percent), Trapani (+31.9 percent) Rotterdam (+26.8 percent), Lodz (+36.7 percent), Paphos (+29.1 percent) and Chania (+20.6 percent).
ACI Europe’s air traffic report also included data on the airports in Russia.
More specifically, while airports in Ukraine (-100 percent) have lost all of their passenger traffic for more than a year, those in Russia (+4.5 percent) managed to remain above their pre-pandemic volumes in the first quarter as passenger demand has shifted to domestic and non-EU+ markets. This boosted the performance of airports in Uzbekistan (+112.5 percent), Kazakhstan (+55.1), Armenia (+37.6 percent) and Serbia (+26.3 percent).
ACI Europe represents over 500 airports in 55 countries. Its member airports facilitate over 90 percent of commercial air traffic in Europe.