Airports association ACI Europe believes passenger traffic will return to pre-pandemic levels faster than expected, thanks to pent-up demand for travel.  

The association, which represents over 500 airports in 55 countries, said on May 20, 2022 that it now expects passenger traffic at Europe’s airports to be down 22% on 2019 levels. That compares with a previous forecast made in October 2021 for traffic to fall 32%. 

ACI Europe said it also expects a full recovery to pre-crisis levels in 2024, rather than 2025.  

“At the moment, the performance of passenger traffic is trending along our high-case optimistic scenario on the back travel restrictions lifting across many markets and strong summer pent-up demand,” Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe, commented in a statement. 

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The association also highlighted in a statement how recovery is being driven by leisure traffic and low-cost carriers, while staffing shortages are having a bigger impact on larger airports.  

Eurocontrol data said on May 19, 2022 that Ryanair, Wizzair and Turkish Airlines all operated more flights over the last week than in 2019.  

Despite the improved forecasts, ACI Europe also had a warning in light of the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, staffing shortages and the possible return of COVID-19 variants. 

“But the history of the past three years suggests caution, especially as we still do not have an established playbook in Europe - let alone globally - on how to deal with future Covid-19 variants when it comes to travel,” Jankovec cautioned.  

“And beyond the immediate operational challenges from staffing issues, there is no escape from rising geopolitical tensions and stagflation fears meaning risks for air traffic only go one direction - down.” 

Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline by passenger numbers, has also warned that despite good prospects for summer 2022, recovery is fragile, also citing risks from Ukraine, costs pressures and the potential return of COVID-19 cases in winter.  

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