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ACI EUROPE: August Air Traffic, 2023-2027 Forecast Update

According to ACI EUROPE‘s August Air Traffic report, Europe’s airports are on track to achieve full passenger traffic recovery. However, there may be noticeable differences in performance among airports due to factors including geopolitics and changes in market dynamics.

ACI EUROPE: August Air Traffic, 2023-2027 Forecast Update  Schiphol Airport
Schiphol Airport Security.

The August 2023 air traffic report and the updated Airport Traffic Forecast 2023‑2027, released by ACI EUROPE, reveal resilient passenger demand and highlight structural changes in the European aviation market.

International Flights Drive August Performance

In August, passenger traffic across the European airport network was only 3.4% below pre-pandemic (August 2019) figures. The European airport sector achieved similar levels in July 2023 at –3% below pre-pandemic passenger numbers.
Compared to August 2022, passenger numbers increased by +11.6%. International passenger traffic (+13.2%) expanded at twice the rate of domestic passenger traffic (+6%).

Full Passenger Traffic Recovery Is Now In Sight

ACI EUROPE shares predictions based on the strong performance of passenger traffic during the Summer. They consider ongoing demand despite inflationary pressures and higher airfares. They also take into account increased geopolitical tensions.

  • The latest forecast predicts that 2023 passenger traffic will reach 95.5% of the pre-pandemic levels in 2019. This is an increase from the previous forecast of 91% in December 2022.
  • The forecast also shows that a full recovery in passenger traffic is expected in 2024. ACI EUROPE had previously projected full recovery by 2025. Passenger traffic at Europe’s airports is predicted to exceed pre-pandemic levels by 1.4% in 2024. That is instead of experiencing a 2% decline, as previously thought.
  • Looking further ahead, by 2027, passenger traffic is expected to be 9.2% higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2019. This is only slightly higher than the previous forecast, which projected a 9% increase.

Lasting Performance Variations

ACI EUROPE has cautioned that while there have been positive signs of recovery in passenger traffic across Europe, the pace of recovery varies significantly among airports.

Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI EUROPE, commented: “What we are seeing is that not all airports are recovering at the same pace. While close to 50% of Europe’s airports have now exceeded their pre-pandemic passenger volumes – with some even experiencing exponential growth – all others remain below, with some still struggling to recover more dynamically. This means that many airports might not get back to their pre-pandemic volumes before 2026, or even later.”

ACI EUROPE attributes variations in performance to multiple factors. The ongoing war in Ukraine and resulting air traffic restrictions have impacted certain markets. Additionally, structural changes in the aviation market post-Covid-19 have played a role. These changes include a shift towards leisure travel and visiting friends and relatives, as well as the rise of international intra-European and transatlantic travel. The expansion of Ultra-Low Cost Carriers and the relative retrenchment of Full-Service Carriers have also influenced the performance of airports.

As of last August, the delta in performance against pre-pandemic passenger levels across national markets ranged from -34% to more than +100%. Jankovec described the situation as unprecedented. “In the past, when faced with systemic shocks such as 9/11 or the global financial crisis, most airports tended to recover at a similar pace. Not this time,” he said.

European Airport Performance

Among the top European airports, only Istanbul (+12.4%) has exceeded its pre-pandemic passenger levels. It is followed by London Heathrow (-1.6%) which benefits from its transatlantic routes. Other of Europe’s top airports are still short of pre-pandemic levels: Paris-CDG (-12.7%), Amsterdam-Schiphol (-11.1%), and Frankfurt (-15.3%).

Other large European airports such as Paris-Orly (+10.8%), Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen (+8.8%), Athens (+8.4%), Lisbon (+5.4%), and Palma de Mallorca (+2.1%) surpassed their pre-pandemic volumes.

Several Low-Cost Carrier bases and regional airports have witnessed impressive increases in passenger traffic. They include Bergamo (+14.3%), Charleroi (+16.5%), Beauvais (+46.7%) and Memmingen (+60.5%).

Performance by Airport Category

During August, airports in different size categories reported varied performance compared to pre-pandemic levels.

  • Group 1 airports (welcoming more than 25 million passengers annually) decreased by 6.4%.
  • Group 2 airports (10-25 million passengers) saw a decline of 8.0%.
  • Group 3 airports (5-10 million passengers) increased by 5.4%.
  • Group 4 airports (less than 5 million passengers) grew by 3.2%.

The airports with the highest increases in passenger traffic in August 2023 compared to August 2019 were Istanbul IST, Paris-Orly, Istanbul SAW, Athens, and Lisbon in Group 1.

In Group 2, Naples, Porto, Milan BGY, Marseille, and Málaga saw significant increases. In Group 3, Sochi, Almaty, Belgrade, Valencia, and Palermo had notable growth. Group 4 airports such as Grenoble, Trapani, Perugia, Kutaisi, and San Sebastián also reported substantial increases.

ACI EUROPE Warns of Downside Traffic Risks

Despite positive trends, ACI EUROPE highlights potential downside air traffic risks, including economic slowdown, inflation, higher oil prices, constraints on airline capacity growth, and geopolitical risks.

It is important to note that these figures and trends are subject to ongoing changes and uncertainties in the aviation industry.


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