ACI research finds 98% increase in passenger traffic in 2022

LinkedIn +

ACI Europe’s Full Year 2022 and December 2022 traffic report shows that passenger traffic across the European airport network nearly doubled (an increase of 98%) in 2022 compared with 2021, reaching 1.94 billion passengers.

However, that was still 21% below pre-pandemic (2019) volumes, with just 27% of Europe’s airports having fully recovered their 2019 passenger traffic levels. Airports in the EU market saw their passenger traffic increase by 122% in 2022 compared with 2021. The rebound was especially notable for airports in countries where travel restrictions had been most stringent throughout 2021, such as the UK, which saw a 249% increase, Ireland with a 235% increase and Finland with 187% more passenger traffic.

The increase in passenger traffic at airports in the rest of Europe was relatively moderate at 26%. This was due to the smaller impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on air traffic in 2021 as governments in these countries generally refrained from imposing the kinds of travel restrictions affecting the EU market. It was also due to the impact of the war in Ukraine, with Ukrainian airports (-88.3%) losing all commercial air traffic as of February 2022 and Russian airports (-10.4%) losing air traffic to/from the EU market in particular. Compared with volumes seen before the Covid-19 pandemic (2019), 2022 saw the gap in passenger traffic between the EU market and the rest of Europe closing, with both markets having reduced by 21%.

Still, the researchers found variations in the performance of national markets across Europe in terms of their recovery to the 2019 level. These variations reportedly reflected a mix of factors – including the continued predominance of leisure/‘visiting friends and relatives’ (VFR) passenger demand boosting airports in tourist-oriented countries, the expansion of targeted low-cost carriers’ (LCCs), increased airport competition, the lingering impact of past travel restrictions, and the war in Ukraine.

In the EU bloc, airports in Greece (-1.9%), Portugal (-5.8%) and Luxembourg (-6.9%) came closest to full recovery in passenger traffic. Among larger EU markets, airports in Spain (-11.4%) posted the best results, followed by those in Italy (-17.9%) and France (-18.8%); those in the UK (-24.8%) and especially Germany (-34.9%), where LCCs retrenched, underperformed the EU+ average. The weakest performance came from airports in Slovenia (-43.6%), Finland (-40.6%) and Slovakia (-38.6%). In the rest of Europe, LCC expansion boosted passenger traffic at airports in Albania (+55.7%), Kosovo (+26.1%) and Bosnia & Herzegovina (+20.4%) well above full recovery levels. Airports in Kazakhstan (+15.6%) and Armenia (+13.2%) benefitted from an influx of traffic from Russia (-24.9%). Airports in Serbia (- 8.9%) came relatively close to a full recovery – followed by those in Turkey (-12.9%).

Although Turkish and Russian airports were the five busiest European airports in 2021, 2022 saw EU hubs largely regaining their positions in the top league. Istanbul in Turkey remained the busiest European airport in 2022, welcoming 64,300,000 passengers and almost recovering its pre-pandemic (2019) traffic volume (-6.2%). London Heathrow in the UK came in second position, with 61,600,000 passengers, representing a mere 23.8% decrease from 2019 traffic levels. However, the British hub has recovered its position as the busiest European airport as of November 2022.

Paris-CDG in France held the third position, with 57,500,000 passengers and a 24.5% decrease from its 2019 traffic levels. It was followed by Amsterdam-Schiphol in the Netherlands with 52,500,000 passengers and a 26.8% decrease from 2019 levels. Finally, Madrid in Spain rounded off the top five league with 50,600,000 passengers and an 18% decrease from 2019 levels, surpassing Frankfurt in Germany with 48,900,000 passengers and a 30.7% decrease from its 2019 levels. Overall, passenger traffic at the majors increased by 114% in 2022 compared with 2021 but remained 22.6% below 2019 levels. This was largely due to the continuation of travel restrictions in some Asian countries, and network airlines still limiting capacity deployment.

Among other large airports and secondary hubs, the best 2022 passenger traffic performances (compared with pre-pandemic levels) came from airports relying predominantly on leisure demand with significant LCC activity and limited or no exposure to Asia. These included Palma de Mallorca (-3.9%), Paris-Orly (-8.4%), Lisbon (-9.3%), Athens (-11.2%), Antalya and Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen s (-13.2%) and Dublin (-14.7%).

The same dynamics also resulted in smaller and regional airports significantly outperforming the European average and coming closest to a full recovery – with their 2022 passenger traffic at 12% compared with pre-pandemic (2019) levels. Among Europe’s airports that had fully recovered their 2019 volumes, 90% were smaller and regional airports. The best-performing regional airports included Trapani and Oradea (+117%), Perugia (+68.5%), Zadar (+36.8%), Zaragoza (+34.4%), Santorini (+25.6%), Funchal (+20.8%), Memmingen (+15.9%) and Chania (+11.3%) – along with the LCC strongholds of Beauvais (+15.7%), Charleroi (+0.6%) and Bergamo (-5.1%).

Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe, said, “The surge in passenger traffic last year has been phenomenal. Kicking off in early spring when most travel restrictions were finally lifted, it boomed over the summer and remained resilient afterward. All of this despite geopolitical shocks, deteriorating macroeconomics, fast-rising airfares and Covid-19 still being with us. If anything, 2022 has been the year in which we finally learned how to live and travel with Covid-19. However, this is not yet a full recovery. Europe’s airports were still short 500,000,000 passengers in 2022 compared with where they stood before the pandemic hit. And there were significant gaps in traffic performance between hubs and smaller regional airports as well as across national markets.”

Share this story:

About Author

, assistant editor

As the latest addition to the UKi Media & Events team, Elizabeth combines research skills from her English degree with a keen interest in the meteorological and transportation industries. Having taken the lead in student and startup publications, she has gained experience in editing online and print titles on a wide variety of topics. In her role as Assistant Editor, Elizabeth creates new and topical content on the pioneering technologies in transportation, logistics and meteorology.

Comments are closed.