ACI: Passenger traffic recovery stable in February at -12% against pre-pandemic levels

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Brussels: European airport trade body ACI EUROPE on Tuesday (April 4) released its air traffic report for February 2023.

Passenger traffic across the European airport network increased by +48% in February compared to the same month last year – when travel remained constrained by Omicron-related restrictions. The growth is predominantly driven by international passenger traffic (+58%) with domestic passenger traffic (+22%) expanding at a much slower pace.

When compared to pre-pandemic (February 2019) levels passenger traffic in February 2023 stood at -12% – almost unchanged over the preceding month (-11% in January 2023). 40% of Europe’s airports had recovered or exceeded their pre-pandemic volumes.


With an increase of +53%EU+ airports grew passenger traffic at the fastest pace in February compared to the same month last year. This reflects the fact that Omicron-related restrictions remained the tightest across this bloc. The highest increases came from airports in Cyprus, Malta (both at +92%) and Austria (+81%).

When compared to pre-pandemic (February 2019) levels, EU+ passenger traffic stood at -12% – but with significant divergences in performance:

10 national markets achieved or exceeded a full recovery in February. The best performances came from airports in Portugal (+18.9%), Luxembourg (+10.9%), Cyprus (+9.7%), Malta (+5.3%) and Bulgaria (+4.9%).

Conversely, airports in Slovakia (-46.7%), Slovenia (-38.5%) and Germany (-33%), the Czech Republic (-29.9%) and Sweden (-28.3%) remained the farthest from achieving a full recovery. This reflected a mix of factors including the impact of the war in Ukraine, the lack of penetration or loss of Low Cost Carrier traffic and industrial action. 

Among the largest EU+ markets – and aside from the underperformance of airports in Germany –  airports in Spain +2.2%) posted the best results followed by those in France (-7.3%), Italy (-10.6%) and the UK (-12.9%).

 At airports in the rest of Europe, passenger traffic grew by +23% in February compared to the same month last year.

The impact of the war weighed on performance – with the loss of all commercial air traffic for Ukrainian airports and passenger volumes increased by just +1.5% at Russian airports. Meanwhile, other national markets posted impressive results, including airports in Israel (+111.2%), Armenia (+91.5%), Moldova (+89.7%), and Serbia (+88.2%). 

When compared to pre-pandemic (February 2019) levels, passenger traffic in the rest of Europe became aligned with the EU+ market at -11%.

Airports in Uzbekistan (+116.6%), Albania (+93.7%), Kosovo (+39.6%), and Serbia (+24.4%) far exceeded their pre-pandemic volumes. Those in the major market of Turkey (-6.8%) saw their performance affected by the devastating earthquakes that hit the country. Meanwhile, airports in Russia (+4.1%) remained above their pre-pandemic volumes as passenger traffic kept shifting to domestic and non-EU+ markets.


Passenger traffic at the Majors (top 5 European airports in 20193) grew by +55% in February compared to the same month last year. Volumes remained -11.7% below pre-pandemic (February 2019) levels. The positive impact of the re-opening of the Chinese market was limited during the month – and still needs to materialize.

Amongst the current top 5 European airports, Istanbul and Madrid remained the only ones having fully recovered their pre-pandemic (February 2019)  levels:

London-Heathrow went back to being the busiest European airport in February. Passenger traffic increased by +81.6% over the same month last year, allowing the British hub to reduce the gap with its pre-pandemic volumes (-5.1%).

Istanbul came second, with passenger volumes growing by +41.6% over the same month last year and standing +4% above their pre-pandemic level. The Turkish hub was followed by Paris-CDG at +52.8% over February 2022 and -11.9% below its pre-pandemic volumes.

Madrid kept the fourth position with its passenger traffic at +45.1% over February 2022 and +0.6% above pre-pandemic levels. Amsterdam-Schiphol closed the league at +42.1% over February 2022 and -21.9% below its pre-pandemic volumes.

Accordingly, Lisbon (+18.8%), Tel Aviv (+13.6%) Dublin (+2.4%), Athens (+2.2%) and Palma de Mallorca (+1.1%) all exceeded their pre-pandemic (February 2019) volumes.

Meanwhile, Berlin (-44.1%), Munich (-29.3%), Helsinki (-28.1%), Prague (-28.7%), Frankfurt (-25%) and London-Gatwick (-22.3%) and Stockholm (-21.5%) remained well below.

These same recovery patterns and market dynamics were to the continued benefit of a number of large Ultra-Low Cost airport bases, bringing their February 2023 passenger traffic well above their pre-pandemic (February 2019) levels: Beauvais (+33.3%), Charleroi (+17.9%) and Bergamo (+17.6%).

They also benefitted regional and smaller airports serving popular tourist destinations and/or relying on Low-Cost Carriers such as Kutaisi (+59.2%), Varna (+58%), Funchal (+48.5%), Asturias (+42%), Memmingen (+36.4%), Rotterdam (+27.5%), Lodz (+34.2%), Paphos (+24.6%).


Freight traffic across the European airport network decreased by -6% in February compared to the same month last year – but stood at +5% compared to their pre-pandemic (February 2019) level.

Frankfurt (-8% compared to February 2019) was the busiest European airport for freight traffic, followed by Leipzig (+20%), Amsterdam-Schiphol (-6%), London-Heathrow (-20%) and Istanbul (-1%).

Aircraft movements increased by +26% across the European airport network compared to the same month last year, with airports in the EU+ markets at +29% and those in the rest of Europe at +10%.


During the month of February, airports welcome more than 25 million passengers per year (Group 1), airports welcome between 10 and 25 million passengers (Group 2), airports welcome between 5 and 10 million passengers (Group 3) and airports welcome less than 5 million passengers per year (Group 4) reported an average adjustment of -12.7%-8.8%-8.7% and -6.7%, as compared to pre-pandemic traffic levels (February 2019).

The airports that reported the highest increases in passenger traffic for February 2023 when compared with February 2022 are as follows:
GROUP 1:   Lisbon (+18.8%), Istanbul IST (+4%), Dublin (+2.4%), Athens  (+2.2%) and Palma de Mallorca (+1.1%).
GROUP 2:   Milan BGY (+17.6%), Porto (15.4%), Tel Aviv (+13.6%), Catania (+11.2%) and Tenerife Sur (+10.4%).
GROUP 3:   Sochi (+68.3%), Belgrade (+25.5%), Charleroi (+17.9%), Lanzarote (+12.7%) and Fuerteventura (+10.5%).
GROUP 4:   Biarritz (712.2%), Tirana (+93.7%), Varna (+58%), Funchal (+48.5%) and Asturias (+42%).

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