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ACI Europe: Air Traffic Demand ‘Defies’ Inflationary Pressure

European airline traffic increased by more than 12 per cent year on year in the third quarter, despite persistently higher air fares and enduring pressures from rising inflation, according to the latest figures from airports association ACI Europe.

When compared to pre-pandemic levels (Q3 2019), passenger traffic stood at -3.1 per cent, marking a “significant” improvement over the first half of the year, which stood at -7.7 per cent of 2019 levels.

Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe, said: “The peak summer season has brought Europe’s airports ever closer to a full recovery in passenger traffic, with demand largely defying inflationary pressures, much higher air fares and geopolitical tensions. 

Jankovec also pointed to “significant variations in traffic performance across both national and individual airport markets. These reflect the impact of the war in Ukraine and more generally structural changes in the aviation market. 

“Leisure and blended demand is king, still predominantly focused on intra-European and transatlantic routes – and very much driven by capacity expansion from ultra-low-cost carriers,” he added.

The association highlighted key milestones such as London Heathrow surpassing its 2019 traffic performance for the first time since the onset of the pandemic, while nearly half (48 per cent) of Europe’s airports have recovered their 2019 traffic volumes.

“This aviation market reality comes with increased competitive pressures for airports and continued financial challenges. Unlike airlines which have been flexing their pricing power and posting record profits, airports are still struggling to reflect inflationary pressures into their user charges – and their profitability remains below what is needed to meet investment needs,” Janovec added.

In the third quarter, airports in the EU, EEA, Switzerland and the UK came close to their 2019 passenger traffic levels, standing just -4.2 per cent below. The best performance in terms of passenger traffic recovery came from airports in Luxembourg (+13.3 per cent), Greece (+12.9 per cent), Portugal (+11 per cent), Malta (+6.5 per cent) and Croatia (+6.4 per cent).

At the other end of the spectrum, impacted still by the war in Ukraine and the closure of Russian airspace, airports in Finland remained well below their pre-pandemic passenger traffic levels at -32.8 per cent. Other EU countries that lagged in their recovery include Slovenia (-26.1 per cent), Sweden (-21.1 per cent), Bulgaria (-19.6 per cent), Germany (-18.3 per cent), Latvia (-16.8 per cent) and Czechia (-15.6 per cent).

Airports in the rest of Europe continued to demonstrate “remarkable dynamism” in Q3, with the exception of those in Ukraine.

Passenger traffic at Europe’s five largest airports – London Heathrow, Istanbul, Paris CDG, Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt – grew by 14.7 per cent in Q3 compared to the same period last year, but still lagged -4.7 per cent below pre-pandemic levels for the quarter.

In contrast, regional and smaller airports exceeded Q3 2019 passenger traffic volumes by 4 per cent, which ACI said reflects recovery dynamics driven by leisure and intra-European travel, as well as the ‘significant’ surge in ultra-low-cost carriers’ capacity.

Source : BTN