Recovery of European air travel pushed back to 2025
The full recovery of Europe’s air passenger market to pre-Covid levels has been pushed back to 2025 with traffic growth likely to “level off” in the next few years.
Airports association ACI Europe said that its previous forecast for a total recovery in passenger numbers by 2024 has now been revised by one year to 2025.
ACI Europe said that passenger volumes in 2023 were now likely to remain at around 9 per cent lower than in 2019. There have already been signs in recent months that the recovery in European air traffic was starting to “stall”.
Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe, said: “Passenger traffic has made a strong comeback since last spring and has so far been very resilient in the face of increasing geopolitical and economic headwinds.
“However, we now expect the passenger traffic recovery to level off moving forwards, with the timeline pushed to 2025 before Europe’s airports finally get back to where they stood before Covid-19 hit.
“Next year, we will still miss 220 million passengers, meaning our volumes will only match 2017 levels. All this reflects a mix of determinants with more negatives than positives – along with significant downside risks.”
ACI Europe said “geopolitical tensions” and the ongoing war in Ukraine were among the main risks to the sector, as well as potential recession and inflation weighing on demand by pushing up air fares.
Growth will also be constrained by “tight capacity” management from full-service airlines and continuing travel restrictions to China. Although the overall market should be boosted by the growth of low-cost carriers and the end of the airport slots waiver regime from summer 2023.
“It is becoming an increasingly mixed bag of impacts and outcomes,” added Jankovec. “We expect several airport markets — especially those relying predominantly on tourism — to exceed their pre-pandemic passenger volumes as soon as next year. But many others will not fare so well and take much longer to recover.
“On the longer horizon, once the last impacts of Covid-19 have finally departed, European airports will face higher levels of risk than in the past. Our regulators must reflect and fully account for this.”