European passenger traffic and aircraft movements drop for the first time in six years, reports ACI
Katowice Airport in Poland handled 27.2% more passengers in July compared to last year, registering Europe's biggest increase for a single airport
Wed 17 Sept 2008 – The overall passenger traffic at 108 reporting European airports decreased by 0.4% in July compared with July 2007, according to Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, the first time since August 2002 that a monthly fall has been registered. Overall aircraft movements fell by 0.1% in July compared to the previous year. Freight traffic suffered a bigger drop with tonnage falling by 2.9%.
Small to medium sized airports, however, managed to post modest year-on-year increases. Group 3 airports, which ACI Europe classifies as medium-sized airports handling between 5 and 10 million passengers per year, recorded an average increase of 1.2% when compared with 2007, and an average increase of 5.9% on July 2006. Amongst Group 3 airports with the biggest increases in July 2008 were Marseille (+12%), Milan/Orio al Serio (+11.6%), Birmingham (+7.5%) and Lyon (+6.8%).
Passenger traffic at Group 4 airports (handling less than 5 million passengers per year) rose by 1.0% in July 2008 compared to the previous year, and up 11.6% on 2006. Some north-east European airports reported considerable increases in traffic, for example Katowice (+27.2%), Vilnius (+26.2%) and Riga (+21.9%).
A spokesman for ACI Europe said it was too early to say whether July’s year-on-year fall was likely to be a trend repeated over the coming months but believed the effects of rising oil prices over the summer combined with the credit crunch would likely be felt at least in the short term.
The Association of European Airlines (AEA), which represents 35 carriers, reports a 1.2% overall increase in passenger traffic in July, but down from a 1.6% rise in June. AEA says an exceptional 7.9% decrease in domestic traffic – due, it says, to some of its members implementing commercial restructuring programmes – contributed to the slowing demand. European cross-border traffic, which had been relatively buoyant during the first half of the year, increased by just 0.8%, a five-year low.
North Atlantic and Far Eastern traffic volumes were largely static but strong increases were reported on South Atlantic and Middle East routes.
While capacity grew about 3.5% overall, load factors fell to 79.9%, the first time since 2004 that the July figure has fallen below 80%. Freight traffic also fell during July (-1.2%), the first time since 2005, with a substantial drop of 4.7% in North Atlantic volume and even the normally buoyant Far East traffic recording a decrease (-0.2%). Freight is traditionally seen as an indicator of future trends in the passenger market.