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2018 – Air Passenger Traffic up 6.1%, but Slide in Freight Raises Worries

air traffic control

Feb 6, 2019

Brussels, 6 February 2019: European airport trade association, ACI EUROPE today releases its traffic report for December, Q4, H2 and Full Year 2018. This is the only air transport report that includes all types of airline passenger flights to, from and within Europe: full service, low cost, charter and others.

Passenger traffic across the European airport network grew by +6.1% last year, bringing the total number of passengers using Europe’s airports to a new record of2.34 billion. While growth somehow moderated in 2018 when compared to the exceptional performance of 2017 (+8.5%), it remained very dynamic – especially considering underlying economic trends and geopolitical tensions. Continued airline capacity expansion played a major role, as aircraft movements grew by +4% – even faster than in 2017 (+3.8%).

Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI EUROPEcommented “Once again, passenger traffic has shown remarkable resilience in 2018, with Europe’s airports welcoming an additional 136.6 million passengers. This means that in just 5 years, passenger traffic has expanded by more than a third (36%) – with more than 629 million additional passengers – of which 445 million were in the EU alone. Managing such growth has been quite a challenge and the strain on airport facilities and staff is real. Capacity and quality are now major issues for an increasing number of airports across Europe. This of course requires investment but also greater operational efficiency – through effective airport-ATM integration and alignment with all other stakeholders.” 

Passenger traffic at EU airports posted an average increase of +5.4% in 2018 (compared with +7.7% in 2017) – with ATM disruptions, airline strikes & consolidation limiting gains in several markets up to the Summer. Since then growth has been on an upward trend, with December closing at nearly +7%.

Airports in the Eastern & Southern parts of the EU achieved the best performances, along with those in Austria and Luxembourg. Accordingly, the following capital & primary airports posted double-digit growth: Vilnius (+30.9%), Bratislava (+18.1%), Riga (+15.7%), Budapest (+13.5%), Tallinn (+13.4%), Malta (+13.2%), Warsaw-Chopin (+12.8%), Milan-Malpensa (+11.5%), Luxembourg (+12.2%), Athens (+11.2%), Vienna (+10.8%) and Helsinki (+10.4%). Conversely, the weakest results came from airports in Sweden (where passenger traffic stalled in the wake of the introduction of an aviation tax) and the UK (a reflection of mounting Brexit fears on the economy).

Meanwhile, non-EU airports saw passenger traffic expand by +8.3% (compared to +7.7% in 2017). However, unlike in the EU market, growth has followed a downward trend throughout the year, from an impressive +14.6% in January to +3.5% in December. This was mainly due to domestic demand at Turkish airports being affected by the country’s economic woes (total passenger traffic growth at Turkish airports stood at +0.9% in Q4), weaker demand at Norwegian airports and growth coming to halt at Icelandic airports towards the end of the year (-0.1% in December).

Conversely, airports in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Israel, Albania, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina grew above the non-EU average. The best individual airport performances came from Kutaisi (+52.5%), Antalya (+21.1%), Tbilisi (+20.4%), Kiev (+19.4%), Kharkiv (+19.3%), Bodrum (+18.8%), Rostov (+18.8%), Moscow-Vnukovo (+18.4%), Skopje (+15.5%), Pristina (+14.7%) and Moscow-Sheremetevo (+14.3%).

The Majors (Europe’s Top 5 busiest airports) registered a +4.8% growth in passenger traffic in 2018, down from +5.5% the preceding year. This lower performance compared to the European average reflected mainly capacity limitations, intensifying hub competition & hub by-pass developments as well as airline strikes. Still, the Majors collectively welcomed 16.5 million additional passengers.

Frankfurt achieved the highest growth amongst the league (+7.8% – 4th position with 69.51 million passengers), on the back of a successful traffic diversification strategy. Istanbul-Atatürk posted the second best performance (+6.4% – 5th position with 68.19 million passengers) but saw passenger traffic slowing down significantly towards the end of the year (only +1% in Q4). The Turkish hub was followed by Paris-CDG (+4% – 2nd position with 72.22 million passengers), where strikes at the home-based network carrier took their toll. Meanwhile, capacity constraints more than halved growth at Amsterdam-Schiphol (+3.7% compared to +7.7% in 2017 – 3rd position with 71.05 million passengers) and also limited gains at London-Heathrow (+2.7%) – which remained the busiest airport in Europe, with 80.12 million passengers.

While performances also varied significantly betweenregional airports, many posted impressive passenger traffic gains in 2018 – a reflection of their agility and success in attracting airlines and developing air connectivity. These included Poznan (+33.7%), Sibiu (+32.2%), Memmingerberg (+26.5%), Seville (+24.9%), Kefallinia (+21.6%), Mikonos (+17.1%), Genoa (+16.7%), Krakow (+16%), Varna (+15.9%), Naples (+15.8%), Linz (+15.7%), Ostend (+15.7%), Valencia (+15.2%), Palermo (+14.8%), Toulon (+13%) and Nantes (+12.6%). However, smaller regional airports (below 5 million passengers per annum) underperformed the European average, growing by +5.1%.


In contrast with passenger traffic dynamics, freight traffic decelerated sharply in 2018, with growth of only +1.8% – compared with +8.4% in 2017. The deceleration primarily affected EU airports (+1.1%) and less so non-EU ones (+5.6%). It turned into traffic losses in November (-1.4%) and December (-2.2%).

Among the top 10 European airports for freight, only the following reported growth: Liège (+21.6% – 8thposition), Istanbul-Atatürk (+9.6% – 5th position), Cologne-Bonn (+2.7% – 9th position) and Brussels (+3.7% – 10th position).

Looking ahead Jankovec concluded “The trend of decreasing freight traffic is hard to ignore. It reflects weakening economic data and contraction forces at play, not just in Europe but around the World. These will ultimately translate into lower passenger demand. Adding to that, volatile oil prices, labour cost pressures and more consolidation should also lead airlines to be more cautious with capacity expansion. So pressures on passenger traffic are likely to come both from the demand and supply sides in 2019.”

He added “With less than 60 days left before the UK exits the EU, BREXIT remains the top immediate risk. However, the latest no-deal contingency measures from the EU no longer provide for a capacity freeze on EU27-UK air routes for UK airlines. This will very much help mitigate the impact and protect air connectivity.”


During the full year of 2018, airports welcoming more than 25 million passengers per year (Group 1), airports welcoming between 10 and 25 million passengers (Group 2), airports welcoming between 5 and 10 million passengers (Group 3) and airports welcoming less than 5 million passengers per year (Group 4) reported an average adjustment of +5.5%+6.7%+6.5% and +6.7%.

The airports which reported the highest increases in passenger traffic during 2018 (compared with 2017) are as follows:

GROUP 1:     Antalya (+21.1%), Moscow SVO (+14.3%), Lisbon (+8.9%), Istanbul SAW (+8.8%) and Madrid (+8.4%)

GROUP 2:     Kiev (+19.4%), Moscow VKO (+18.4%), Budapest (+13.5%), Warsaw WAW (+12.8%) and St Petersburg (+12.1%)

GROUP 3:     Seville (+24.9%), Krakow (+16%), Naples (+15.8%), Riga (+15.7%) and Valencia (+15.2%)

GROUP 4:    Kutaisi (+52.5%), Poznan (+33.7%), Sibiu (+32.2%), Vilnius (+30.9%) and Memmingerberg (+26.5%)

During the month of December, airports welcoming more than 25 million passengers per year (Group 1), airports welcoming between 10 and 25 million passengers (Group 2), airports welcoming between 5 and 10 million passengers (Group 3) and airports welcoming less than 5 million passengers per year (Group 4) reported an average adjustment of +4.8%+9.3%+5.4% and +5.2%.

The airports which reported the highest increases in passenger traffic during December 2018 (compared with December 2017) are as follows:

GROUP 1:     Palma De Mallorca (+20.7%), Moscow SVO (+17.6%), Antalya (+12.6%), London STN (+10.3%) and Barcelona El-Prat (+9.5%)

GROUP 2:     Berlin TXL (+57.2%), Vienna (+25.8%), Dusseldorf (+24%), Kiev (+19%) and St Petersburg (+17.6%)

GROUP 3:     Thessaloniki (+25.7%), Seville (+22%), Faro (+19%), Krakow (+16.5%) and Valencia (+15.5%)

GROUP 4:     Kutaisi (+127%), Mikonos (+103.3%), Caen (+84.6%), Batumi (+66%) and Kefallinia (+53.6%)

The ‘ACI EUROPE Airport Traffic Report – December, Q4, H2 & Full Year 2018’ includes 243 airports in total representing more than 88% of European air passenger traffic.

Airlines given Guidance on Assisting Passengers with Hidden Disabilities

disability sign

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has already published new industry guidance on assisting passengers with hidden disabilities. The guidance to airlines follows similar advice given to airports in 2016 and has been formulated in association with disability groups. Acknowledging existing good practice by some carriers, the CAA expects to see passengers with hidden disabilities treated with an appropriate level of care by all airlines.

The CAA guidance makes clear that airlines need the right procedures in place to assist such passengers.

Specifically, airlines should:

  • Have a clear and accessible pre-notification system in place allowing passengers to request special assistance at the point of booking.
  • Share information about a passenger’s assistance needs within their own organisation and with the airport and ground handling agents. 
  • Ensure a passenger with a hidden disability is seated with a travelling companion at no extra cost.
  • Invest in quality training for staff so hidden disabilities can be identified and passengers assisted accordingly.
  • Ensure passengers with hidden disabilities are looked after in the event of flight delays and cancellations.  

Paul Smith, Director of Consumers & Markets at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “Hidden disabilities can include autism, dementia, epilepsy and a wide range of invisible medical conditions. Therefore, we are absolutely committed to ensuring everyone has equal access to air travel. Passengers with hidden disabilities can find airports and aeroplanes confusing and challenging environments, which is why we want to work with the industry to ensure the journey from check-in to arrival at a final destination is made as comfortable as possible.

“Our work with airports to improve assistance for passengers with hidden disabilities is now being extended to include airlines. Together we can ensure that the appropriate level of assistance and care is provided wherever and whenever it is required.” 

The full guidance document can be found at


For Travelers: Safety and Security are Top Concerns

Safety and security are the most important factors when choosing a travel destination for 2016 for almost half (46%) of holidaymakers in a survey of over 2,300 people by travel insurance specialist

However, over half (60%) of those surveyed said their travel plans for the next six months were unchanged following recent global events such as the Paris attacks and Sharm el-Sheikh airline tragedy, while just under one in eight (12%) of respondents stated that they were less likely to go abroad.

Seeking the best deal, three quarters (75%) of respondents stated that they have already started to plan their holidays for next year, of which over a third (34%) have set their sights on long haul destinations. Over one in seven (14%) of holidaymakers stated that they are likely to take a staycation in 2016, while over a quarter (28%) stated that they were more likely to take an international holiday in the next six months than before.

Price-savvy travellers put “value for money” as the second most important factor in deciding a destination; with over a third (33%) ranking it as the most important. Over half (52%) of respondents stated that fluctuating currency exchange rates were the least important factor.

Amber Howard, brand manager of, said: “Travelling the world and exploring new places is always exciting but it is interesting to see how attitudes towards destinations have changed. Our customers’ safety is always the highest priority for us, and we encourage people to check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice before departing, for more information on their chosen destination.

“Travel insurance can give you the peace of mind knowing that you are covered should the worst happen when you are abroad – from lost luggage to unexpected medical expenses. Always check that your policy is suitable for your needs and activities – especially if you are planning on doing extreme sports as they are not always covered as standard.”

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Bahrain Airport Company conducts successful Hazard Material Accident Exercise

Bahrain Airport

In line with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Bahrain Airport Company (BAC), the operator and managing body of Bahrain International Airport (BIA), conducted a Hazard Material “Chemical Liquid” Accident Exercise on the 24th of April. The participants involved in the activity were , Ministry of Interior Operations Directorate, Civil Defense & Fire Services, Airport Police, Airport Customs, BAC Airport Rescue & Firefighting Services, BAC security, BAC Airside Operations, BAC Corporate Communications, BAC Health, Safety & Environment, King Hamad University Hospital and Bahrain Airport Services (BAS). The purpose of a radioactive accident exercise is to ensure the adequacy of the plan to cope with different types of accident/incident scenarios that may occur at Bahrain International Airport.



UNWTO: No Reason to Be Afraid to Travel to Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles

The Minister of Tourism of Madagascar, Roland Ratsiraka, the Minister of Tourism of Mauritius, Anil Kumarsingh Gayan, SC and the Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine of the Seychelles, Maurice Loustau-Lalanne met at the sidelines of the World Travel Market in London to express a common message of confidence on the measures being taken by Madagascar to overcome the plague outbreak.

meeting was convened and chaired by UNWTO

The meeting was convened and chaired by UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, in the presence of the Permanent Secretary of Kenya Mrs. Fatuma HirsiI Mohamed, representing the chair of the UNWTO Commission for Africa, Minister Najib Balala.

Ministers recalled that all countries are taking the measures recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), and expressed their confidence that these are going on the right direction.

UNWTO Secretary-General recalled that WHO does not recommend any travel bans on Madagascar and that “based on the available information to date, the risk of international spread of plague appears very low”.


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