Airports Council International (ACI) Europe’s latest traffic report reveals the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Europe’s airports. Passenger traffic decreased by -64.2% during the first half of the year, almost coming to a complete standstill in Q2 with a drop of -96.4% compared to the same period in 2019.
The report also shows that in the first half of the year non-EU airports were slightly less impacted (-59.8% compared to -65.6% for their EU counterparts) thanks to domestic traffic. This mostly reflected less stringent lockdowns in several non-EU countries and domestic air services being less affected than international ones.
During June, Moscow-Domodedovo became the busiest European airport with 716,800 passengers. London Heathrow, which normally holds the top spot, came down to the 11th position, handling just over 350,700 passengers compared to 7.24 million in June last year.
Disruptions in rankings were widespread across the airport league – a reflection of the lack of alignment between European States in lifting travel restrictions. UK airports also significantly lagged behind their peers in June due to the overly restrictive and untargeted travel restrictions enacted by the British Government. London Gatwick dropped from the 10th position last year to the 92nd position; Manchester from the 18th to the 73rd position; London Stansted from the 24th position to the 59th position; Birmingham from the 48th position to the 125th; and Newcastle from 93rd to the 170th.
Followign the tentative coordination of the lifting of travel restrictions at EU level as of mid-June, the traffic recovery has been slower than expected. As a result, passenger traffic across the European airport network still declined by -78% in July compared to the same month last year. This translated into an additional 208 million passengers lost, bringing the total passenger loss since the start of the year at 969 million.
The past two weeks have seen further deceleration in the pace of recovery. This is due to several states re-imposing travel restrictions and in particular the UK’s abrupt decision to require passengers returning from Spain to quarantine.
Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s Director General commented: “The recovery is far too slow-paced and uncertain. Despite desperate efforts to trim down their costs Europe’s airports are burning cash at the height of the summer. Revenues are weak because of the combination of low volumes with rebates and incentives to airlines to attract and incentivise air traffic.” He also warned that, “Considering the seasonality of demand, this does not bode well for the coming months. If the recovery does not accelerate significantly, many airports will simply run out of money.”