ACI publishes half year passenger figures

Data from January-June reveals severe losses for airports across the EU, with the preliminary July numbers increasing momentum

ACI Europe has released its June report today (August 11), which reveals that Covid-19 continues to impact the aviation sector, with passenger traffic decreasing by 76.9% across the EU during the first half of 2021.  

Compared to 2020 figures, European airports saw a 36.2% decline in customer volumes.  

The organisation recorded a 93.5% fall in traffic in Ireland, 92.9% in the UK, 92.1% in Finland and 91.9% in Hungary, which is thought to be due to the implementation of travel restrictions.  

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However, Romania saw just a 71.7% decline, as well as Bulgaria (73.6%), Greece (76.9%) and Spain (78.8%), all of which experienced the ‘lowest’ decreases in passenger traffic within the EU.  

The five busiest European airports in the first half of the year were all from Russia and Turkey, with Istanbul claiming the top position with a 62.5% fall, closely followed by Moscow/Sheremetyevo (51.4%).  

“For Europe’s airports, the first six months of 2021 were actually worse than last year, as passenger volumes further decreased by more than a third,” said Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe director general. “This is the direct result of the travel restrictions reinstated by European States at the beginning of the year and which remained in place throughout spring as the continent was hit by the third wave of the pandemic.  

“But while the impact was felt by all airports across the continent, it is those located in the EU+ area that were by far the most impacted, while those located in the rest of Europe were beginning to recover traffic by Q2.” 

Prior to the pandemic, Heathrow was ranked as the busiest hub in Europe. However, due to it suffering a 90.1% decline in passenger traffic, it was pushed back to 14th position in the first half of this year.  

Airports ranking above the London hub include Paris/Charles de Gaulle in 7th, Frankfurt in 9th and Amsterdam/Schiphol in 10th.  

Regional hubs performed better overall, with a 75% fall in passenger volume.  

Freight traffic across the European network only experienced a 1.1% decline in the first half on the year, compared with 2019 figures, and was up by 25% from 2020 numbers.  

The latest preliminary data for July shows a 51% decrease in passenger volumes across Europe, with total customer data doubling compared to the same month last year.  

ACI believe that the vast improvement last month is due to the EU digital Covid-19 certificates, alongside improved travel regulations in the UK and Ireland.  

On August 1, a 38% decline in passenger traffic in the EU was recorded compared with the same day in 2019.  

Jankovec warns, however, that “2021 is not going to be the year of our recovery”.  

“The outlook beyond the peak summer months remains uncertain and is dependent on further progress with vaccination both in Europe and globally. Crucially, it is dependent on more governments allowing and effectively facilitating travel on that basis. Our eyes are especially on the US market, which remains closed to European travellers, increasing the level of frustration on both sides of the Atlantic with each day,” he concludes.