Airline bankruptcies & risk aversion limit traffic growth in September

15 November 2019

Brussels - European airport trade body, ACI EUROPE today released its latest air traffic report for September & Q3 2019, measuring all of commercial aviation flights: full service, regionals, low cost and charter.

On average, the growth in passenger traffic across the European airports stood at +2.2% in September – down from +3.4% in August. The growth in Q3 stood at +2.6% - down from +4.3% in H1. Meanwhile, freight traffic kept declining for the 11th consecutive month at -2.8% (-3% for Q3) and aircraft movements barely increased at +0.8% (+1.1% in Q3).
Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI EUROPE commented: “The passenger traffic growth dynamic keeps softening, and there is no recovery in sight for a depressed freight traffic. While these figures account for worsening macro-economic & trading conditions, they also reflect the fact that 4 European airlines went bust in September. More generally, Europe’s airports see airlines limiting capacity & network development and focusing on protecting their yields. That trend is getting more acute as we have entered the Winter season - with the grounding of 737MAX as well as ATM limitations clearly not helping.”
The impact of the bankruptcies of Aigle Azur, XL Airways, Thomas Cook and Adria Airways was mostly felt in the EU market, where passenger traffic grew by +2% - the weakest monthly performance in 6 years. The airports most affected by these airline market exits included Ljubljana (-9.6%), Paris-Orly (-9.4%), Fuerteventura (-9.2%), Glasgow (-7.7%), Las Palmas (-6.1%), Corfu (-4%), Newcastle (-3.7%), Kos (-3.3%), Tenerife South (-3.1%) and Heraklion (-2.7%).
Amongst EU national markets, Latvia (+11.4%) was the only one achieving double-digit growth, while Estonia & Luxembourg (+9.6%), Austria (+9%), Hungary (+8.6%), Poland & Malta (+7.6%), Finland (+6.4%) and Portugal (+6.2%) still significantly outperformed the EU average. At the other end of the spectrum, Slovenia (-9.6%), Bulgaria (-7.9%), Sweden (-2.1%), Slovakia (-1.1%), the UK (-0.7%), Germany (-0.4%) all posted passenger traffic losses - while Greece (+0.3%), Denmark (+0.5%) and Cyprus (+0.6%) barely grew.
Amongst capital & larger EU airports, the best performances came from Milan-Malpensa (+33.5% - partly due to the closure of Milan-Linate for runway refurbishments), London-City (+11.9%), Riga (+11.4%), London-Luton (+10.7%), Vienna (+10.4%), Budapest (+8.6%), Lisbon (+7.3%), Madrid (+7.1%), Prague (+6.7%) and Helsinki (+6.6%).
Airports in the non-EU market saw passenger traffic expanding by +3%, in September - driven by Ukraine (+28.8%), Armenia (+18.7%), North Macedonia (+16.5%), Albania & Serbia (+13.7%).
Iceland (-34.2%) continued to be severely affected by the bankruptcy of WOW and other airlines’ capacity adjustments, with the latter also impacting Georgia (-9.9%). Meanwhile, Russia slightly outperformed the non-EU average (+3.4%) – and gains were rather limited in Switzerland (+0.6%), Turkey (+1.8%) and Norway (+2.3%).
Amongst non-EU capital & larger airports, the highest increases in passenger traffic came from Kyiv-Boryspil (+27.6%), Yerevan (+18.7%), Tirana (+13.7%), Belgrade & Skopje (+11.9%) and Minsk (+11.2%).
The growth in passenger traffic at the Majors (top 5 European airports) remained weak in September at +1.2% (compared with +1.3% in August). Paris-CDG achieved the best performance (+4.8%), even becoming the busiest European airport during the month with more than 6.81 million passengers. Istanbul (+1.8%), Amsterdam-Schiphol (+1.4%) and Frankfurt (+1.3%) grew at a much lower pace, while London-Heathrow (-3%) was affected by industrial action at British Airways.
Smaller regional airports (less than 5 million passengers/annum) significantly underperformed at -0.7% - reflecting once again the fragility of their markets when trading conditions deteriorate.
Apart notable exceptions including Kharkiv (+66.3%), Targu Mures (+65%), Turku (+46.8%), Friedrichshafen (+43.7%), Kutaisi (+34.7%), Mostar (+25.3%) and Zadar (+25.2%), the best performance amongst regional airports came from larger ones (more than 5 million passengers/annum) such as Krakow (+31.7%), Bologna (+24.6%), Sevilla (+19.6%), Nantes (+13.2%), Bordeaux (+11.6%), Bilbao (+11.4%) and Porto (+10.6%).
As in the preceding months, the downturn in freight traffic in September is entirely concentrated on the EU market (-4.4%) with non-EU airports making significant gains (+4.8%).
During Q3, 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 +2.4%, +4.1%, +2.2% and +0.7%.
The airports that reported the highest increases in passenger traffic during Q3 are as follows:
GROUP 1: Vienna (+13.2%), Antalya (+12.5%), Moscow SVO (+9.4%), Lisbon (+7.7%) and Madrid (+7.3%).
GROUP 2: Milan MXP (+26.2%), Kyiv KBP (+25.8%), Porto (+11.3%), Moscow-Vnukovo (+8.9%) and London-Luton (+8.4%).
GROUP 3: Krakow (+29.8%), Sevilla (+20.2%), Nantes (+16.8%), Bologna and Bordeaux (+13.1%) and Riga (+12.6%).
GROUP 4: Targu Mures (+113.5%), Ohrid (+53.8%), Turku (+52.9%), Kharkiv (+42.1%) and Nis (+39.9%).
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