Madrid, Tel Aviv, Gothenburg and Florence lead the way in European Q3 airport growth

At EU airports, the average passenger traffic growth was +6.3 per cent (+6.3 per cent also for Q3), while passenger traffic at Non-EU airports reported growth of +5.8 per cent (+6.4 per cent for Q3). Meanwhile, freight traffic at Europe’s airports was essentially flat in September at +0.2 per cent (+0.5 per cent for Q3). Finally, aircraft movements increased by +3.3 per cent (+2.9 per cent for Q3).

Latest statistics for September 2015 released by the European airport trade body ACI Europe this week show that the Continent’s air transport industry continues to report positive traffic growth with demand up 6.2 per cent. This is in line with recent figures and brings total Q3 growth to 6.2 per cent.

At EU airports, the average passenger traffic growth was +6.3 per cent (+6.3 per cent also for Q3), while passenger traffic at Non-EU airports reported growth of +5.8 per cent (+6.4 per cent for Q3). Meanwhile, freight traffic at Europe’s airports was essentially flat in September at +0.2 per cent (+0.5 per cent for Q3). Finally, aircraft movements increased by +3.3 per cent (+2.9 per cent for Q3).

The data from ACI Europe is deemed valuable by industry analysts as it is the only air transport report which includes all types of civil aviation passenger flights: network, low cost, charter and others. Its latest figures for September 2015 and Q3 2015 includes information from 219 airports in total representing more than 88 per cent of European air passenger traffic and shows that growth is relatively universal across the Continent regardless of the size of airports, albeit there are obvious regional variations based on operations and economies.

Analysis shows that during Q3, airports welcoming more than 25 million passengers per year (Group 1), airports welcoming between 10 and 25 million passengers (Group 2), airports welcoming between 5 and 10 million passengers (Group 3) and airports welcoming less than 5 million passengers per year (Group 4) reported an average adjustment +5.0 per cent, +7.6 per cent, +6.2 per cent and +7.4 per cent, respectively.

Among the Group 1 airports Madrid leads the way in Q3 growth (up 12.9 per cent), ahead of the fast-expanding Istanbul Ataturk Airport (up 12.2 per cent), while Paris Charles De Gaulle and Orly (up 8.4 per cent and 7.6 per cent, respectively) and Amsterdam Schiphol (up 6.5 per cent) complete the top five list.

In Group 2, Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport has seen the largest rise in passenger traffic in Q3 (up 25.1 per cent), again ahead of another of Istanbul’s fast-expanding airports, this time Sabiha Gokcen (up 19.5 per cent). Fellow Turkish airport, Ankara International (up 19.5 per cent) was third fastest in this category with Athens International (up 18.3 per cent) and Dublin (up 15.6 per cent) the fourth and fifth fastest growing airports.

In this next category it is the Scandinavian city of Gothenburg that has seen the highest level of growth with passenger levels up by almost a Q3 at the city’s Landvetter Airport (up 24.3 per cent). Other strong performing Group 3 airports were Porto (up 16.1 per cent), Glasgow (up 13.4 per cent) and Milan Linate (11.2 per cent).

In the smallest category, Group 4, it is Florence that has seen the largest growth of any European airport with passenger traffic trebling in Q3 (up 213.1 per cent). High rates of growth were also recorded by Aurel Vlaicu International Airport in Bucharest (up 75.5 per cent), Ohrid St Paul the Apostle Airport in the Republic of Macedonia (up 64.9 per cent) and Narimanovo Airport in Astrakhan, a city in southern Russia near the Caspian Sea (up 32.7 per cent).

“Domestic consumption is now the main driver for economic growth in Europe, on the back of continued low oil prices. This is particularly the case in the Eurozone, where GDP growth is steady - although still weak,” said Olivier Jankovec, Director General ACI Europe.

“This makes for a mostly positive scenario for passenger traffic in the months ahead. However, shrinking exports remain a risk due to the weakness of emerging economies – meaning freight traffic is unlikely to improve from what has been a flat year so far,” he added.  

Speaking to Routesonline during the World Routes network development forum in Durban, South Africa in September, Jankovec highlighted some industry trends and with the exception of Russia and Norway, noted that passenger traffic growth had been “extremely dynamic” over the peak summer months across Europe for all segments of the airport industry.

The latest traffic report from ACI Europe shows that within the EU, airports in Hungary, Ireland, Romania, Slovenia and Luxembourg have posted double digit growth, however, the Lufthansa strikes in September weighed heavily on the performance of German airports. Conversely, several French airports benefitted from strong comparison with September last year – when a two week strike by Air France pilots severely depressed traffic.

Outside the EU, airports in Moldova, Israel, Iceland, Georgia and FYROM all grew in excess of 20 per cent and Ukrainian airports have achieved a significant return to growth. Turkish airports have continued to perform very well – although a couple of airports serving prime tourism destinations have been affected by the decreasing traffic from Russia.

On the sidelines of the World Routes Strategy Summit, where Jankovec was among the speakers, we took the opportunity to speak to the executive about the challenges impacting the European airport business and particularly how government's are regulating the business across the Continent.

Olivier Jankovec, Director General ACI Europe talks about the airline-airport relationship and how regulators are impacting this improving relationship.