MIAMI – The European airport trade association ACI EUROPE has announced its traffic report for the full year 2020 with numbers not seen since 1995.

In a press release, the organization reveals the full extent of the devastation suffered by Europe’s airports as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report includes all types of commercial flights to, from, and within Europe.

All told, Europe’s airports lost 1.72 billion passengers in 2020 compared to 2019, a decrease of -70.4%.

Olivier Jankovec, director-general of ACI EUROPE commented, “With just 728 million passengers in 2020 compared to 2.4 billion passengers in the previous year, Europe’s airports were back to their traffic levels of 1995.”

Jankovec adds, “No industry can on its own withstand such a shock. While some states (countries) have taken steps to financially support their airports, only €2.2b has so far been earmarked for that purpose in Europe. This is less than 8% of the revenues airports lost last year.”

IST became Europe’s busiest airport in 2020 – seen here during construction. Photo: IGA (Istanbul Grand Airport) Havalimanı İşletmesi A.Ş

European Union Airports Hardest Hit


EU airports (-73% & 1.32 billion passengers lost) were significantly more impacted than those in the non-EU bloc (-61.9% & 400 million passengers lost). This is mainly due to the size and relative resilience of domestic markets primarily in Russia but also Turkey, combined with less stringent lockdowns and travel restrictions compared to the EU market.

The distinct performance between the EU and non-EU market became apparent in the second half of the year. While both EU and non-EU airports saw passenger traffic coming to an almost stand still in Q2 (respectively -97.3% and -93.3%), losses in Q4 stood at -83.8% at EU airports compared to -63.9% at non-EU airports.

Within the EU, in Q4, airports in Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Slovenia, and Slovakia were still saw passenger traffic below -90%, with German and UK airports following closely (-87.9% and -86.6%).

At the other end of the spectrum, airports in Bulgaria (-69%), France (-78.1%), Greece (-72.1%), and Portugal (-77.2%) slightly outperformed the EU average.

Outside the EU, airports in the larger Russian (-44.2%) and Turkish (-60.7%) markets proved the most resilient in Q4, with those in Iceland (-96.2%) and Georgia (-94.8%) being the most impacted.  

The top five major hub airports in the EU, including LHR seen here, together lost 250M passengers in 2020. Photo: LHR

Passenger Traffic at Major Hubs Affected


All segments of the airport industry were almost equally impacted in 2020 in terms of passenger traffic losses, from the Majors (top five European airports) at -71.3% to smaller regionals at -69.4%.

The five hubs listed as majors in 2019 – London-Heathrow (LHR), Paris (CDG), Amsterdam-Schiphol (AMS), Frankfurt (FRA), and Istanbul (IST) – lost 250 million passengers in 2020.

By Q4, only IST remained in the top league. The Turkish hub had by then become the busiest European airport, followed by Istanbul-Sabiha Gokcen (SAW), Moscow-Sheremetyevo (SVO), Moscow-Domodedovo (DME), and Moscow-Vnukovo (VKO).


Featured image: London Heathrow Airport. Photo: Ferrovial Airports