Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) has warned that nearly 200 airports across the UK and Europe face insolvency in the coming months due to the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
ACI Europe, which represents airport operators, has warned that without the additional support from governments, “significant parts of air transport system” would collapse with the continued downward trend in passenger traffic figures. The operators’ body has estimated that 193 out of Europe’s 740 commercial airports face insolvency “in the coming months” if passenger traffic does not start to recover by the year-end. The airports which were at-risk employed 277,000 people and generated collective annual revenues of €12.4bn (£11.2bn).
The airports facing insolvency were not named in the report but are mainly regional airports which serve local communities and were integral to connecting them to the wider network. ACI Europe added their insolvency would have a potential ripple-effect upon local employment and economies is clear.
Test passengers over “quarantines that cannot be enforced”
ACI Europe’s Director General Olivier Jankovec, Director General called for countries to implement testing over quarantine to keep air networks open. He said: “In the midst of a
second wave, ensuring safe air travel continues to be our primary concern. It’s crucial that we reduce the risks of importation and dissemination as much as possible. But surely we can do a much better job of reducing those risks by testing air passengers rather than with quarantines that cannot be enforced.”
“The figures published today paint a dramatically bleak picture. Eight months into the crisis, all of Europe’s airports are burning through cash to remain open, with revenues far from covering the costs of operations, let alone capital costs. Governments’ current imposition of quarantines rather than testing is bringing Europe’s airports closer to the brink with every day that passes.”
Passenger traffic shows year-on-year decrease of 73 per cent
Data from the industry body has recorded a year-on-year decrease of 73 per cent in passenger traffic at Europe’s airports in September. With the pandemic continuing into October, the total volume of “lost passengers” since January 2020 stood at 1.29 billion. As of mid-October, passenger traffic stood at 75 per cent down from the same period last year – an 80 per cent decrease for airports in the EU/EEA/Switzerland/UK footprint.
ACI Europe said that the permanence of severe restrictions to cross border travel which is now stretching into the Winter season, has considerably worsened the traffic outlook, as reflected in the latest forecast with many airlines slashing capacity plans for the reminder of the year and into 2021.
A statement from the airport operator called for more state support to keep airports open: “Financial support from Government will be crucial in averting rising geographic inequality and damaged social cohesion.”
“At the same time, larger European airports and hubs are not immune from the critical financial risk. They have cut costs to the bone and have resorted to the financial markets to shore up balance sheets and build emergency war chests. This sudden increase in debt – an additional €16 billion for the top 20 European airports – is equivalent to nearly 60 per cent of their revenues in a normal year. This, along with the fact that these airports had to make thousands of highly skilled workers redundant, clearly jeopardises their future.”