ACI Figures Show European Airports Report Slower Passenger Growth and Declining Freight in 2019

  • Slowest passenger traffic growth in 5 years reported during 2019, mainly due to stronger deceleration in the non-EU market, declining domestic traffic as well as airline bankruptcies & capacity restraint in the EU market.
  • A record 2.43 billion passengers welcomed by Europe’s airports in 2019 & Passenger traffic still up by +32.3% since 2014. EU airports added +57.8 million passengers in 2019, accounting for 76% of the growth.
  • The Majors (Top 5 European airports: +1.8%) and smaller regionals (+0.3%) underperformed the European average.
  • Freight traffic at -1.9% in 2019, dragged down by EU airports.

The European airport trade association, ACI EUROPE has releases its traffic report for December, Q4, H2 and Full Year 2019. This is the only air traffic report that includes all types of airline passenger flights to, from and within Europe (full service, low cost, regional, charter and others).

Passenger traffic across the European airport network (46 countries) grew by +3.2% in 2019. While this is just over half the growth rate registered in 2018 (+6.1%) and the weakest performance in 5 years, it still resulted in Europe’s airports welcoming a record 2.43 billion passengers in 2019.
The passenger growth slowdown in 2019 was more significant at non-EU airports and largely driven by a decline in domestic traffic (-1.1%), as International traffic kept growing dynamically (+4.6%). It also reflected airline consolidation and limited airline capacity expansion, as aircraft movements only increased by +1.1% during the year and even became negative in the last Q4 (-1.2%). Meanwhile, freight traffic dropped by -1.9% in 2019, the worst performance since 2012.

Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI EUROPE said: “Over the past 5 years, Europe’s airports have increased their passenger traffic by more than +32% – meaning they have actually accommodated an extra 595 million passengers since 2014. But 2019 has been a pivotal year. Volumes were still up, but the deceleration has been notable on the back of both supply and demand pressures.”
Looking at the months ahead, Mr Jankovec noted that many airports have planned for continued lower growth in passenger traffic in the face of uncertain trading conditions. He commented: “Some of the supply side pressures might start easing, especially if the 737 MAX is finally approved to fly again and if the recent decrease in oil prices is not reversed. However, there are for now few if any signals that airlines may be considering more capacity expansion – and further airline consolidation remains an ongoing reality.”
He added: “The immediate big question mark is what happens with the coronavirus outbreak. Europe’s airports have been coordinating closely with and assisting public health authorities in their containment efforts. The traffic impact so far has been marginal and mostly limited to those airports with direct air services to China. We estimate that in February, the top10 EU/UK airports1 will collectively lose 475,000 passengers, which should amount to just 1.2% of their total traffic for the month. But as wider economic consequences start kicking-in in China and potentially beyond, the impact on air traffic could become more widespread and significant for Europe’ airports.”

1London-Heathrow, Paris-CDG, Amsterdam-Schiphol, Frankfurt, Madrid-Adolfo Suarez, Barcelona, Munich, London-Gatwick, Rome-Fiumicino, and Dublin.