Home Travel & Adventure Remarkable Comeback: European Airports Witness Impressive Passenger Traffic Recovery in H1 2023

Remarkable Comeback: European Airports Witness Impressive Passenger Traffic Recovery in H1 2023


An impressive rebound in passenger traffic across the European airport network has been present in the second quarter of June and the first half of 2023, as the European airport trade body, ACI EUROPE, revealed in a report on July 31.

During the first half of 2023, passenger traffic surged by 28.3 per cent compared to last year.

International traffic played a significant role, growing at a remarkable rate of 32.3 per cent, outpacing domestic traffic’s growth rate of 16.6 per cent. The pace of growth slowed down in the second quarter of June, with a growth rate of 16.3 per cent compared to the explosive growth of 49 per cent in the first quarter.

The easing of COVID-10 restrictions on intra-European travel from April last year contributed to this substantial recovery.

Despite the progress, passenger volume in the first half of 2023 remained -7.7 per cent below pre-pandemic levels. However, there has been a steady improvement from -11 per cent in January to -5.9 per cent in June, indicating the network’s path toward a full recovery.

The Director General of ACI EUROPE, Olivier Jankovec, acknowledged the encouraging rebound in passenger traffic over the past six months, moving closer to pre-pandemic levels.

“There are significant variations in performance across national markets, and volumes still remain below their pre-pandemic levels for more than half (52 per cent) of Europe’s airports. Apart from the lasting impact of the war in Ukraine on some markets, this is largely due to recovery patterns becoming structural,” Jankovec stated.

Passenger Traffic Increases Similarly to 2022

When examining performance gaps amongst national markets, airports in the EU+ market and the rest of Europe showed similar growth rates in the first half of 2023, with 28.7 per cent and 26.4 per cent, respectively.

In June, the EU+ market saw noticeable passenger traffic performances in, particular at these airports:

  • Greece (+14.2 per cent)
  • Iceland (+9.3 per cent)
  • Luxembourg (+8.7 per cent)
  • Portugal (+8.1 per cent)
  • Poland (+6.3 per cent)

Complete Recovery of Smaller Airports, Larger Airports Still Below Their Pre-pandemic Levels

The busiest European airport in the first half of 2023 was London Heathrow, counting 37 million passengers, followed by Istanbul (35.6 million) and Paris-CDG (31.8 million).

Regarding smaller airports, Trapani came first with an increase of 163 per cent, then Perugia (+137 per cent), Kutaisi (+82 per cent) and Zaragoza (+57 per cent).

Freight Traffic’s High Performance & Aircraft’s Slow Progress

The freight traffic in Europe decreased by 7.1 per cent in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period last year. The top performances were recorded from Istanbul (+28 per cent), Milan-MXP (+24 per cent) and Leipzig/Halle (20 per cent).

An increase of 15.5 per cent in aircraft movements was recorded in the January-June 2023 period compared to last year.

Passenger Numbers Categorised by Airport Groups

During the first half of 2023, airports in different passenger groups showed various changes compared to pre-pandemic levels. Airports welcoming over 25 million passengers had an average decrease of ten per cent (Istanbul IST, Lisbon, Athens), airports between ten and 25 million passengers had a 10.1 per cent decrease (Milan BGY, Porto, Naples), airports between five and ten million passengers showed a 1.7 per cent increase (Sochi, Almaty, Belgrade) and airports with less than five million passengers had a 1.2 per cent decrease (Tirana, Yerevan, Memmingen).

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