The removal of COVID-related travel restrictions coupled with strong leisure demand means the European aviation industry can look forward to a strong summer season, ACI Europe deputy director general Morgan Foulkes told delegates attending Routes Europe 2022 in Bergen.
However, he added that there are significant challenges threatening the pace of the recovery, explaining that rising inflation and the cost of fuel is bringing a new financial burden for airports and airlines.
Foulkes said that traffic across all of Europe’s airports was 34% down on pre-pandemic levels during March 2022, but this represented an improvement of -39% in February and -46% in January. The average traffic level across the first quarter was down 39.6% on 2019 levels.
The organization now expects the region’s traffic to fully recover by 2024, compared with previous estimates of 2025. But Foulkes cautioned that forecasting the recovery is a crystal ball exercise given the political and economic instability created by the war in Ukraine.
“In the last few weeks, Europe has entered uncharted territory with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia—and, obviously, attempts to deescalate the war have failed so far,” Foulkes said.
“The spike in fuel costs is going to impact the airlines we expect that this will make them more risk adverse. Many airlines are quite well-hedged until November of this year, but what happens next?”
Foulkes said the spike in fuel prices will lead to rising airfares could result in new demand pressures and a shift in travel sentiment.