Europe’s airports should “cope with demand” this summer, with capacity caps likely to be the “exception”, according to the latest update from airports’ organisation ACI Europe.
Last summer was blighted by the mass cancellations of flights by major carriers as some of the continent’s key hubs, including London Heathrow, Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt, were forced to implement daily passenger caps due to a lack to staff.
Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe, expressed confidence about the prospects for less disruption to air travel during the summer 2023 season, with airports having “stepped up preparedness plans”.
“They have reached out to all their operational partners – airlines, ground handlers, border control forces and air traffic control – to identify possible risks and stress points, in particular, as regards staffing levels and to devise mitigation measures,” said Jankovec.
“By and large, the aviation system capacity on the ground should cope with demand – and capacity limitations will remain the exception.”
Speaking at the Business Travel Association's spring conference in London on Monday, British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle said he was confident there will not be a repeat of last summer's congestion and cancellations at Heathrow.
“Last year was not straightforward... but we've come a long way very quickly. Resourcing and operability are in much better shape than last year,” he said, adding that the airline had embarked on its biggest-ever recruitment campaign last year, hiring more than 7,500 people.
ACI Europe also released figures showing how air travel in Europe is closing in on pre-Covid levels with January’s passenger traffic being only 11 per cent lower than in January 2019 – the best monthly performance since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.
Just over two-fifths of Europe’s airports (42 per cent) have now recovered to pre-Covid levels of traffic with more likely to hit this milestone in the coming months.
“Continued capacity expansion by ultra-low cost carriers and the recent lifting of pre-departure testing requirements for travellers from China should keep driving the recovery forward for airports,” added Jankovec.
Portugal’s airports saw the strongest recovery in January, followed by Cyprus, Croatia, Malta and Romania. But Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Germany continue to lag at least 30 per cent behind their pre-Covid traffic levels, with this partly being blamed on the impact of the war in Ukraine.
Germany continues to trail the recovery of other major European aviation markets, with Spain already 2.2 per cent ahead of 2019 traffic, while Italy (-4.7 per cent), France (-11 per cent) and the UK (-14.3 per cent) are also rebounding more quickly.
Separate figures from airlines organisation IATA also showed that global air travel demand was “off to a very healthy start” in 2023, helped by China removing its Covid travel restrictions in January.
Total global traffic in January was at 84.2 per cent of 2019’s levels with all markets “recording strong growth”, led by carriers in the Asia-Pacific region.
European airlines increased traffic by 60.6 per cent compared with January 2022 as the average load factor jumped by 14.2 percentage points to 75 per cent.
IATA’s director general Willie Walsh said: “With strong travel demand continuing through the traditionally slower winter season in the northern hemisphere, the stage is set for an even busier spring and summer.”