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European Airports see 93.2% Decline in Passenger Traffic

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact across European Airports; latest data from the Airports Council International (ACI) has shown.

The ACI released its air traffic report for June 2020 which revealed the sharp 93.2% decline in European passenger demand.

Figures have shown that passenger traffic plunged 64.2% during the first six months of 2020, eventually experiencing a hefty 96.4% drop during Q2 compared to 2019.

Airports within the EU appear to have suffered significantly more than non-EU markets. A 59.8% fall was experienced by non-EU airports in comparison to the 65.6% drop for EU services. Much of this result comes down to the less severe lockdown restrictions within non-EU countries, whose domestic traffic has been less affected.

This article breaks down the traffic data of individual European airports as well as the future for European travel.

ACI air traffic report data

ACI’s most recent air traffic report covers traffic figures from June 2020, outlining steep passenger declines across the board. Some of the findings are as follows:

  • Moscow Domodedovo Airport (DME) experienced a 73.3% decline in comparison to June 2019, seeing a total of 716,800 passengers and was one of the least affected amongst European airports.
  • Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) saw 625,900 passengers in June 2020, which was a 90.9% decline compared to June 2019.
  • Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO) passengers fell by 86.5% compared to June 2019, with 622,800 passengers.
  • Frankfurt Airport (FRA) saw 599,200 passengers in June 2020, which was a 90.9% decline from the previous June.
  • Istanbul Airport (IGA) welcomed 591,000 passengers, a fall of 90.1% compared to June 2019.
  • London Heathrow Airport (LHR) was significantly affected, seeing only 350,700 passengers in June 2020, which is a 95.2% decline from June 2019. Heathrow is usually ranked as the number 1 busiest airport in Europe but has sadly now fallen to number 11.
  • Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) was also dramatically hit with just 471,800 passengers, which was a 92.7% fall from the previous June.

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UK Airports take a significant passenger hit

Whilst COVID-19 has dramatically affected all European airports, the UK, in particular, saw dwindling passenger demand during June 2020. In addition to London Heathrow, the other UK airports significantly affected by lack of passenger traffic include:

  • London Gatwick Airport (LGW) experienced a 99.4% decline in June passenger traffic and dramatically fell from the 10th busiest airport in Europe to 92nd.
  • Manchester Airport (MAN) passengers shrank by 98.6% compared to June 2019, falling from 18th to 73rd place.
  • London Stansted Airport (STN) saw a 97.8% drop in passengers compared to the previous June and is now the 59th busiest European airport compared to the usual 24th.
  • Birmingham Airport (BHX) passenger traffic fell by 98.9% in June, falling from 48th to 125th position.
  • Newcastle International Airport (NCL) experienced a 99.1% fall in June passenger traffic, dropping down to 170th place from 93rd.

Europe’s air traffic recovering more slowly than expected

During July 2020, European airport passenger traffic, although improved, went at a much slower pace than initially expected.

Figures revealed that passenger demand fell by 78% compared to July 2019. The slow recovery comes down to the abrupt travel restrictions imposed by particular countries—for example, the UK’s decision to ask travellers to quarantine from Spain upon entering the UK.

Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe, has acknowledged the slow recovery and that future progressions are uncertain. Many airlines including Ryanair and EasyJet have slashed flight costs in a bid to encourage passengers to fly again during summer 2021, but the level of success remains to be seen. He commented that low airport revenues are down to a combination of low passenger demand, lack of incentives from airlines to attract passengers, and ‘erratic’ government decisions surrounding travel restrictions.

Jankovec has accused governments of demonising travel and going against the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The WHO has previously stated that they do not believe that closing borders are the solution for halting the spread of COVID-19. As a result, ongoing government restrictions are having a significant impact on the financial viability of the aviation industry.

The future for passenger demand

The summer months are usually the time that airports experience their biggest boom, which acts as financial support during the quieter winter months. Severe lack of passenger traffic experienced during this time will undoubtedly place airport liquidity in a state of uncertainty for the first half of 2021.

The speed of recovery within the aviation industry is currently unsustainable. Jankovec fears that if we do not see recovery move at a faster pace, many airports will struggle to survive, placing many jobs at risk. With the current growth rate, it’s anticipated that airports will not recover fully until 2024.

Jankovec has stated that European tourism and aviation will not be saved by selectively injecting billions into a few individual airlines and believes it can only be done by putting people in a position to travel again.

The earliest travel abroad could resume in the UK is 17th May 2021. However, it seems unlikely that this will be the case with Government Ministers predicting that August could be the earliest month. The Global Travel Taskforce will reveal ways in which travel abroad from the UK can continue in April.

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