Financial problems in the eurozone dominated headlines in 2011, but new ACI Europe data indicates that such troubles didn’t affect airline operations equally. Freight volumes at European airports started off strong last year and then declined in the second half of 2011, while passenger volumes remained robust, improving 7.3 percent, year-over-year.
Overall, cargo traffic at European airports grew 1.4 percent, year-over-year, in 2011, according to a press release. This number, and the 7.3-percent growth figure for passenger volumes, has been slightly inflated, however, due to the volcanic ash crisis in 2010 and “exceptionally harsh winters,” according to a press release.
When taking these factors into account, 2011 passenger and cargo traffic only improved 5.2 percent and 0.6 percent, year-over-year, respectively. Still, aircraft movements at European airports showed considerable growth last year, increasing 4.1 percent from 2010.
Passenger operations also soared at the end of the year, rising 8.3 percent, year-over-year, in December. Freight traffic at European airports remained flat, however, according to the press release.
ACI Director General Olivier Jankovec fears 2012 will be a completely different story for European aviation. “Economies have come to a standstill in many parts of Europe with the sovereign debt crisis, which is also having a ripple effect on growth prospects elsewhere,” he said in a statement. “This will affect demand for air transport.”
“At the same time, fuel costs and national aviation taxes are going to limit airlines’ willingness to add capacity — a serious concern, especially for regional airports,” Jankovec continued.
The EU Emissions Trading Scheme could also keep some carriers away, he projects. “The cost of buying emissions permits under the EU ETS has started to be reflected in airlines’ fares,” Jankovec stated. “This will also weigh on their network decisions, as evidenced by AirAsia X’s recent move out of Europe.”