Airport trade body ACI EUROPE has released its latest traffic report for January 2024, showing international passenger volumes reaching 2019 levels for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Passenger traffic across the European airport network was up 7 per cent in January 2024 compared to the same month in 2023.

This was driven predominantly by international passenger volumes, which achieved a full recovery on pre-pandemic numbers, while domestic traffic remained 13 per cent down on 2019 levels.

Traffic at the region’s major airports (those with over 40 million annual passengers) rose 8.3 per cent compared to January 2023, driven by strong transatlantic demand, the progressive return of Chinese travellers and network airlines adding more capacity.

ACI EUROPE said that London Heathrow remained the busiest European airport in January, just 8,000 passengers ahead of Istanbul Airport.

Heathrow is targeting a record 81.4 million passengers in 2024, while Istanbul is aiming to reach 85 million passengers this year.

Istanbul airport targets 85 million passengers in 2024

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

“Overall, January saw the recovery in passenger traffic enduring, with further growth over the past year, and international passenger traffic finally getting back to its pre-pandemic levels after five years.

“Demand generally remained resilient in the face of much increased air fares, even though the growth dynamic slowed down or even stalled in a few markets.

“This is adding further divergences to an already much fragmented airport market, where geopolitics and structural aviation market changes – including the primacy of leisure demand and selective Low Cost Carrier expansion – are shaping traffic performance like never before.

Looking at the months ahead, macro-economic conditions are set to improve in the EU and the UK in particular, with further drops in inflation and growth in real wages. Combined with consumers prioritising experiences and leisure, this should support continued growth in demand for air travel – with headwinds still coming mainly from supply pressures and higher air fares as well as geopolitics.”