On Tuesday December 20th, Airports Council International Europe (ACI EUROPE) released a revised passenger traffic forecast for the European airport network, showing that passenger volumes in 2023 are set to remain -9% below pre-pandemic (2019) levels. A full recovery is expected in 2025 rather than in 2024, as it was previously forecast in May 2022. “Passenger traffic has made a strong comeback since last spring and has so far been very resilient in the face of increasing geopolitical and economic headwinds,” Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI EUROPE.
Continued geopolitical tensions and the war in Ukraine will keep impacting several national markets, and dominate downside risks. Deteriorating macro-economics and inflationary pressures are also set to weigh on demand, with air fares having increased sharply throughout Q3 and Q4 2022.
We expect several airport markets to exceed their pre-pandemic passenger volumes next year. Others will take much longer to recover.Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI EUROPE
Higher regulatory costs will also result in sustained inflationary pressures on air fares. On the supply side, tight capacity management mainly by Full Service Carriers and the permanence of travel restrictions to China will also limit further traffic growth.
“It is becoming an increasingly mixed bag of impacts and outcomes,” said Jankovec. “We expect several airport markets, especially those relying predominantly on tourism, to exceed their pre-pandemic passenger volumes as soon as next year. But many others will not fare so well and take much longer to recover.”
ACI EUROPE expects the impact of these negative determinants on passenger traffic to be partially compensated by a degree of resilience in leisure demand and the continued expansion of Ultra-Low Cost Carriers. The end of the airport slots waiver granted to airlines as of next Summer should also ease supply pressures.
All these factors will impact airports differently depending on their location, size, market position and business model. This means the increasing gaps in traffic performance which we already see across our footprint are here to stay, at least as we move through the year to come.
“On the longer horizon, once the last impacts Covid-19 have finally departed, European airports will face higher levels of risk than in the past,” said Jankovec. “Our regulators must reflect and fully account for this.”