Airports

ACI Europe: Performance gap opens for Europe’s airport industry

ACI Europe: Performance gap opens for Europe’s airport industry
Michael Stanton-Geddes, director of economics and competition at ACI Europe, delivered a keynote address at Routes Europe 2024 in Aarhus, Denmark (Image credit: Mark Pilling)

There are distinct winners and losers among Europe’s airports as overall passenger numbers finally exceed 2019 levels, with large hubs and airports in the popular southern tourist destinations on the continent performing far better than small and medium-sized airports and those in the north of Europe, said Michael Stanton-Geddes, director of economics and competition at ACI Europe.

Stanton-Geddes, delivering a keynote address at Routes Europe 2024, being hosted by Aarhus Airport in Denmark from 22-24 April, said: “For airports, the recovery has not been equal. The industry is not returning to the 2019 status quo.”

In February, ACI Europe’s traffic data shows that monthly traffic exceeded the same month in 2019 for the first time, however the data also shows that “only 44 per cent of airports have exceeded their 2019 passenger traffic levels”.

“The rest are still struggling and that’s a big transformation to see. There has been a shift during the very challenging five years of Covid that has become permanent,” said Stanton-Geddes.

He urged delegates to “throw your ideas of the airport industry as it was out of the window”, describing the change as a “stunning market transformation”.

Stanton-Geddes listed a structural change to traffic patterns, more seasonality, capacity growth coming predominantly from low-cost operations, more international flying, a more consolidated airline industry, and the availability of fewer aircraft types as the reasons for the transformed marketplace.

As southern European destinations have boomed, north and central European markets have suffered. For instance, the Finnish market is down by 23 per cent in traffic levels compared to 2019 while Germany lags by 20 per cent, he explained. “There is a permanent shift in traffic flows.”

Faced with this changed market, airports are de-risking their businesses seeking to grow traffic and diversify their airline mix, said Stanton-Geddes.

Heightened competition among European airports was “very visible” in the halls and meeting rooms at Routes Europe as airports fight to capture new airlines and new routes, he added.

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