Passenger traffic for the peak summer month of July came closest ever to a full recovery, reaching 97 percent of pre-Covid-19 levels, according to data released Tuesday by the Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe).
Overall, passenger traffic across the European airport network in July stood at just -3 percent compared to July 2019 – a further improvement over the preceding month (June stood at -5.9 percent compared to the same month in 2019). When compared to July 2022, passenger traffic grew by +12.8 percent.
Airports in Greece reported a 14.8 percent increase in passenger traffic and came in third among the top 5 best-performing in Europe that exceeded their pre-pandemic levels, after Iceland (+16.2 percent), Croatia (+15.7 percent) and followed by Portugal (+10.5 percent), Luxembourg (+10.5 percent).
“The best performances came from markets predominantly relying on inbound tourism and/or transatlantic traffic,” according to the airport traffic report by ACI Europe.
Other best performing airports included those in Poland (+7.1 percent), Malta (+6.3 percent), Cyprus (+3 percent), Italy (+2.3 percent), Spain (+1.3 percent) and Ireland (+0.6 percent).
On the downside, airports in Finland (-31 percent), Slovenia (-27.4 percent), Bulgaria (-22.9 percent), Germany (-19.2 percent) and Sweden (-17.9 percent) remained the farthest from a full recovery.
Athens International Airport (AIA) was among the large airports in its group (welcoming more than 25 million passengers per year) posting the best performance in July, with passenger traffic up by 10.6 percent. AIA was followed by the airports in Istanbul-Sabiha Gökçen (+8.9 percent), Lisbon (+5.2 percent), Palma de Mallorca (+4.1 percent), Paris-Orly (+3.1 percent), London-Stansted (+1.8 percent), Antalya (+1.4 percent) and Dublin (+0 percent).
Chania, Santorini and Corfu enjoy ‘exponential growth’
Additionally, the airports in Chania, Santorini and Corfu were among Europe’s smaller airports that enjoyed “exponential growth” and saw passenger traffic exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 32.1 percent, 31.9 percent and 31 percent, respectively.
The three Greek airports followed the airports of Zadar (+290.9 percent), Perugia (+189.6 percent), Kutaisi (+122.9 percent), Funchal (+42.7 percent).
Overall, Europe’s regional and smaller airports serving popular tourist destinations and/relying on LCC traffic saw passenger traffic exceeding pre-pandemic levels by +6.2 percent.
Top 5 European airports still below pre-pandemic levels
Looking at the top 5 European airports (Istanbul, Turkey; Heathrow, London, UK; Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, France; Schiphol, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport, Spain) in July, passenger traffic remained –4.3 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels (July 2019).
According to ACI Europe, this was due to less dynamic hub carrier capacity deployment and the sluggish return of demand from China. Compared to July 2022, passenger volumes still increased by +15.1 percent, thanks notably to strong transatlantic demand.
Jankovec: 51% of Europe’s airports still below pre-pandemic passenger traffic volumes
Commenting on the latest data, ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec said the “headline figures” of Europe’s best performing aiports in July are “symptomatic” of a shift from material to experiential consumption, with people valuing travel for leisure and for meeting friends and relatives across Europe and beyond more than ever.
“The consumer confidence resilience and continued momentum in the traffic recovery is even more remarkable considering the cost-of-living crisis and record increases in air fares,” he said.
He added, however, that performance variations between national and individual airport markets have also become a fixture of our recovery – with 51 percent of Europe’s airports still below their pre-pandemic passenger traffic volumes.
“These performance variations reflect a mix of factors – from the impact of the war in Ukraine to the impressive but selective capacity expansion of Ultra-Low-Cost Carriers and relative retrenchment of Network Carriers, as well as some domestic traffic shifting to other transport modes,” he said.