The European Airport Trade Association, ACI EUROPE, has published its traffic report for the full year 2020, revealing the full extent of the devastation suffered by Europe’s airports as a result of pandemic COVID-19.
ACI’s report covers all types of commercial flights to, from and within Europe (full service, low cost, regional, charter, full cargo and more).
Europe’s airports lost 1.72 billion passengers in 2020 compared to the previous year, a decrease of -70.4% .
Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI EUROPE commented: “With just 728 million passengers in 2020 compared to 2.4 billion passengers the previous year, Europe’s airports are back to their 1995 traffic levels. No industry can alone withstand such a shock. While some Member States have taken steps to support their airports financially, only €2.2 billion has so far been allocated to this end in Europe. This is less than 8% of the revenue lost by airports last year. With a further decline in traffic in recent weeks and no recovery, more needs to be done. Helping airports is essential to rebuild air connectivity and effectively support local and regional communities and tourism. It is also important to restore the investment potential of airports for the future.”
EU airports with the hardest hit
EU airports (-73% & 1.32 billion passengers lost) were significantly more affected than those in the non-EU bloc (-61.9% & 400 million passengers lost). This is mainly due to the size and relative resilience of domestic markets mainly in Russia but also in Turkey, combined with less stringent travel restrictions and limitations compared to the EU market.
The separate performance between the EU and non-EU market became apparent in the second half of the year. While both EU and non-EU airports saw passenger traffic almost at a standstill in Q2 (-97.3% and -93.3% respectively), Q4 losses amounted to -83.8% at EU airports compared to -63.9% at non-EU airports. Again, this was mainly due to the relative resilience of domestic passenger traffic in the non-EU market (-39.8%) compared to the EU market (-72.9%), although non-EU airports also performed better than EU airports for international passenger traffic (-78.2% and -86.6% respectively).
Within the EU , limited differences in extreme passenger traffic losses also reflect the size of domestic markets and/or the extent of locks and travel restrictions.
As a result, in Q4 airports in Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Slovenia and Slovakia still saw passenger traffic below -90% – with Germany and UK airports following close behind (-87.9% and -86.6%). At the other end of the (narrow) spectrum, airports in Bulgaria (-69%), France (-78.1%), Greece (-72.1%) and Portugal (-77.2%) slightly outperformed the EU average.
Outside the EU , airports in the largest markets of Russia (-44.2%) and Turkey (-60.7%) proved the most resilient in Q4 , with those in Iceland (-96.2%) and Georgia (-94.8%) the most affected.
All segments of the aviation industry were almost equally affected in 2020 in terms of passenger traffic losses, from the Majors (top 5 European airports) at -71.3% to the smaller regions at -69.4% .
The top 5 hubs
The 5 hubs listed as Majors in 2019 – London-Heathrow, Paris-CDG, Amsterdam-Schiphol, Frankfurt and Istanbul airport – lost 250 million passengers in 2020. Frankfurt (-73.4%) saw the largest decline, followed by London-Heathrow ( -72.7%), Amsterdam-Schiphol (-70.9%), Paris-CDG (-70.8%) and Istanbul (-59.6%).
By the fourth quarter, only Istanbul remained in the first category. The Turkish centre then became the busiest European airport, followed by Istanbul-Sabiha Gokcen (n.2), Moscow-Sheremetyevo (n.3), Moscow-Domodedovo (n.4) and Moscow-Vnukovo (n.5).
Cargo recovery by the end of the year.
Freight traffic at Europe’s airports fell by -11.8% in 2020 compared to the previous year, with the losses almost equally split between EU airports (-12.1%) and non-EU airports (-9.9%). The recovery in freight traffic accelerated last September, with a marginally positive result in December (+ 0%).
Among the top 10 European airports for freight, volume increases were recorded only by Liege (+23%), Leipzig-Halle (+12%), Luxembourg (+6%) and Cologne-Vonn (+5%).
Aircraft movements across the European airport network fell by -58.6% in 2020 compared to the previous year.