ACI EUROPE has published its latest air traffic report, showing levels moving ever closer to pre-pandemic 2019.

Almost half of Europe’s airports (48 per cent) have now recovered 2019 traffic volumes, with Heathrow recently reporting its highest ever September figures.

Istanbul also recorded third quarter passenger traffic levels at 14.1 per cent above those in the same period of 2019.

But several large European airports have still yet to reach pre-pandemic levels, with Paris CDG 12.2 per cent down on 2019 levels in the third quarter of this year, Amsterdam Schiphol down 10.9 per cent, and Frankfurt down 14.1 per cent.

Overall passenger traffic across the European airport network was up 12.1 per cent in the third quarter compared to 2022, and just 3.1 per cent down on 2019.

Country-wise Luxembourg reported traffic levels up 13.3 per cent in the third quarter compared to 2019, while Greece was up 12.9 per cent, and Portugal up 11 per cent.

But Finland – whose flag carrier Finnair has traditionally relied on access to Russian airspace to operate flights to the Far East – saw its passenger traffic down 32.8 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.

Commenting on the news Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI EUROPE, said:

“The peak Summer season has brought Europe’s airports ever closer to a full recovery in passenger traffic, with demand largely defying inflationary pressures, much higher air fares and geopolitical tensions.

“But beyond positive headline figures, there were significant variations in traffic performance across both national and individual airport markets. These reflect the impact of the war in Ukraine and more generally structural changes in the aviation market.

“Leisure and blended demand is king, still predominantly focused on intra-European and transatlantic routes – and very much driven by capacity expansion from Ultra-Low Cost Carriers.

“This aviation market reality comes with increased competitive pressures for airports and continued financial challenges.

“Unlike airlines which have been flexing their pricing power and posting record profits, airports are still struggling to reflect inflationary pressures into their user charges – and their profitability remains below what is needed to meet investment needs.”

In September Airports Council International (ACI World) forecast that the Latin America-Caribbean region will be the first to surpass 2019 levels, with the region expected to welcome 707 million passengers this year – 102.9 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

ACI: Latin America-Caribbean region will be first to surpass 2019 air passenger levels