European traffic on recovery path

European airport trade body, ACI EUROPE today struck a cautiously positive note as it released its traffic results for the full year of 2013 across the entire European airport network.

The overall passenger traffic growth at Europe’s airports in 2013 increased by +2.8% compared with 2012. While non-EU countries such as Turkey, Russia, Iceland and Norway reported stunning passenger traffic growth of +9.6%, EU airports experienced a modest increase of +1%, with traffic showing good signs of recovery in the last quarter in particular.

The structure of the European aviation market continues to evolve, with non-EU airports now accounting for close to 22% of total passenger traffic, up from 15% in 2008. Also, the recovery of domestic passenger traffic has been lagging behind international passenger traffic – especially in those countries most affected by the Eurozone crisis and where high speed rail provides an alternative to flying.

Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI EUROPE commented: “2013 has seen a steady improvement in European passenger traffic month after month, from a decrease of –1.6% in January to impressive growth of +5.5% in December. The recovery became more dynamic over the summer and clearly gathered steam in the final months of the year. EU airports have consistently underperformed their non-EU counterparts throughout the year. This is due to the continued impact of the Eurozone crisis and the maturity of the EU air transport market, where air travel is now a commodity. However, this performance gap has narrowed over the last months, and it is encouraging to see the bounceback in passenger traffic at many airports across the EU, especially in Ireland and Portugal – or even Spain and Greece.”    

Freight traffic at European airports for the full year reported an increase of just +0.8%, while the overall number of aircraft movements still decreased by -1.2%.

Jankovec noted that the recovery in freight still lags behind the recovery in passenger traffic, with overall freight volumes in 2013 below 2010 levels. He said: “Freight traffic kept suffering from weak domestic consumption in Europe and from slower economic growth in Asia and Latin America. But it has also been affected by more structural factors – including the miniaturisation trend in consumer goods and a shift away from just-in-time production, both of which are driving volumes down. All on top of renewed competitive pressures from other modes of transport.”


Reviewing the outlook for 2014, Jankovec said: “There seem to be enough hopeful signs that Europe can sustain its nascent economic recovery, which is pointing to an even more positive picture for air traffic in the months ahead. Yet, downside risks remain and traffic growth prospects are likely to be constrained by several factors, particularly in the EU. A jobless recovery combined with damaging aviation taxes in the UK, Germany, France and Austria is not helping spur demand for air services.”

“Restructuring is ongoing at many EU airlines, and some may not make it to the end of the year – adding further uncertainty. On the plus side oil prices are set to remain stable or to fall, and with aircraft movements still down by -5% compared to 2008, there is scope for well-positioned airlines to grow capacity – and market share. Based on prevailing trading conditions and assuming that Turkey and Russia maintain the dynamic traffic growth they currently enjoy, our forecast for 2014 is for +3.2% growth in passenger traffic at Europe’ airports. Freight is likely to grow by +1.5% while aircraft movements could reach +1.4%.

He concluded:Overall, competitive pressures keep increasing for Europe’s airports and markets are much less segmented than they used to be – as evidenced by the recent move of Ryanair into a number of primary airports. Our response is to focus on de-risking the business. Apart from controlling costs, this involves incentivising traffic growth, limiting investments and maximising commercial (non-aeronautical) revenues.”

Airports welcoming more than 25 million passengers per year (Group 1), airports welcoming between 10 and 25 million passengers (Group 2), airports welcoming between 5 and 10 million passengers (Group 3) and airports welcoming less than 5 million passengers per year (Group 4) reported an average adjustment of +2.6%, +3.4%, +2.8% and +2.9% respectively when compared with Full Year 2012.


Airports that experienced the highest increases in passenger traffic per group, when comparing Full Year 2013 with 2012 were:

GROUP 1 Airports – Istanbul IST (+13.6%), Moscow SVO (+11.7%), Moscow DME (+9.2%), Antalya (+8.5%) and Paris ORY (+3.8%)

GROUP 2 Airports – Istanbul SAW (+27.0%), St Petersburg (+15.2%), Berlin TXL (+7.1%), Dublin (+5.6%) and Stockholm ARN (+5.3%)

GROUP 3 Airports – Ankara (18.2%), Warsaw WAW (+11.4%), Izmir (+9.2%), Alicante (+8.9%) and Bergen (+7.6%),

GROUP 4 Airports – Arad (+172.0%), Chita (+30.1%), Zadar (+27.6%), Kazan (+24.3%) & Tivat (+23.9%)


During the month of December, airports across those same traffic groups reported an average adjustment of +4.2%, +7.1%, +5.4% and +6.7% respectively when compared with December 2012. Airports that experienced the highest increases in passenger traffic per group, when comparing December 2013 with December 2012 were:

GROUP 1 Airports – Istanbul IST (+12.7%), Moscow SVO (+11.5%), Antalya (+8.3%), Paris ORY (+7.6%) and Amsterdam (+5.4%)

GROUP 2 Airports – Istanbul SAW (+44.6%), St Petersburg (+13.9%), Malaga (+11.8%), Stockholm ARN (+11.0%) and Lisbon (+10.8%)

GROUP 3 Airports – Ankara (21.0%), Lanzarote (+15.5%), Kiev (+14.2%), Izmir (+11.8%) and Edinburgh (+11.0%),

GROUP 4 Airports – Ohrid (+295.4%), Vatry (+72.5%), Bournemouth (+51.1%), Kaunas (+39.2%) and Arad (+38.1%)

The ‘ACI EUROPE Airport Traffic Report – December, Q4 & Full Year 2013’ includes 180 airports in total representing approximately 88% of European air passenger traffic.

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