Schiphol Group concedes COVID-19 is depressing air travel

The airports operator is downgrading its forecast for full-year passenger numbers.

A slower than anticipated recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has led the company operating Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) to significantly scale back the number of passengers it expects to handle this year at its three Dutch airports, another sign that European airlines' recovery from the pandemic continues to be bumpy.

Given lower passenger numbers in the first half of the year, the Schiphol Group said that its February estimate of 27-37 million passengers for 2021 is being reduced to the range of 21-28 million. 

“So far in 2021 we have seen recovery, but not as much as we expected,” Schiphol Group CEO Dick Benschop said. “With higher vaccination rates and gradual lifting of travel restrictions, we are moderately positive for the second half year.” 

The airport group includes Eindhoven (EIN) and Rotterdam The Hague (RTM) as well as AMS, but the former two airports are small regional facilities with passenger numbers accounting for less than 350,000 of the 6 million total that passed through the group’s airports in the first half of this year. 

AMS saw 5.6 million passengers transit the airport in the 2021 first half, down from 13.1 million for the same period last year and even further reduced from the pre-COVID-19 figure of 34.5 million for the first half of 2019. 

The airport group added that it estimates passenger volumes not returning to 2019 levels until 2024. 

Despite the difficulties on the passenger side of the business, first-half cargo volumes at AMS increased 27.7% year-over-year to 838,000 tonnes.

COVID-19 restrictions on passengers remain a major stumbling block to rebuilding traffic, Benschop said, adding: “International alignment on measures and ways to travel is crucial. Governments should align on lifting travel restrictions for fully vaccinated passengers. The EU has taken important steps and reciprocity is needed.” 

The EU appears, however, to be moving toward re-imposing restrictions on US passengers

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