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European air transport market development⁹

  • Within the European market, passenger traffic posted its biggest gains of the past 13 years in 2017. In 2017 European airports enjoyed their best year since 2004, when air traffic was boosted by the addition of ten new EU members. This highlights the fact air transport demand continues to grow more rapidly than the economy at large and is not currently being affected by geopolitical risks. 
  • The above performance was on a par with the previous year, resulting in an increase in European passenger traffic of 20% in the last two years and of nearly 30% in the last five years. In addition to a growing economy and oil prices that remain low, this performance may also be attributed to shifting consumer tastes, digitalization and the increasing importance of millennials.
  • The fact that in the last five years the number of European airports (excluding major airports) with over 25 million passengers has risen from 14 to 24 underlines the increasing competition between major point-to-point airports and hubs. 
  • The biggest traffic increases in 2017 were seen at airports located outside the EU and in its eastern and southern regions. The swiftest growth was reported by airports in the east and south of the EU, with double-digit growth recorded by airports in Latvia, Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, Belgium, Cyprus, Malta and Portugal. Airports in Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and Iceland reported 20% average growth in 2017. EU airports saw a 7.7% increase in passenger traffic, a further improvement on 2016.
  • This considerable growth is placing considerable pressure on airport facilities and personnel, as an increasing number of airports approach their capacity limits. ACI Europe predicts that passenger traffic at European airports will double by 2040.
  • Operating near capacity limits at so many European airports raises the risk of lower quality of service and delays, adverse environmental impacts, less competition between airlines and higher fares. According to figures by ACI Europe10, passengers are already paying Euro 2.1 billion in higher airfares each year as a direct result of congestion.

9 Source: ACI Europe, Airport Traffic Report December, Q4, H2 & Full Year 2017
10 ACI Europe Cocktail at the European Parliament, Welcome address by Michael Kerkloh - President ACI Europe, January 23, 2018