Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) has issued a warning about the collapse of significant parts of the air transport system.  Nearly 200 European airports are likely to face insolvency due to the coronavirus pandemic unless air passenger traffic begins a recovery.

The Airports Council International Europe

Leeds Bradford Airport
Leeds Bradford Airport © Mig R via Flickr

ACI Europe has its headquarters in Brussels.  It is a European trade association promoting the collective interests of Europe’s airports and professional excellence in airport management and operations.  ACI represents over 500 airports from a total of 740 European airports which have paying passengers.

Data published on October 28 shows a year-on-year decrease of 73% at European airports in September.  An additional loss of 172.5 million passengers in September brings the total of lost passengers since January 2020 to 1.29 billion.  A continuing downward trend during the first half of October shows an overall decrease of 75% from the same period last year.

As severe restrictions on cross border travel will continue into the Winter season the outlook for air traffic can only get worse.  Airlines have reduced capacity plans for the rest of the year and into 2021.  This will have a dramatic effect on many airports across Europe.

European Airports Most at Risk of Insolvency

Water Cannon Salute at Cornwall Newquay Airport
Water Cannon Salute at Cornwall Newquay Airport © Cornwall Airport Newquay

The longer the coronavirus pandemic continues the larger the number of airports at risk of insolvency.  It is eight months since the crisis erupted and all the airports in Europe are spending large amounts of money to remain open.  Amounts that far exceed current revenues.  The imposition of quarantines rather than testing is bringing airports closer to the threat of insolvency every day.

Airports most at risk of insolvency are the regional airports.  These small airports are an important part of their local communities.  They facilitate long-distance travel and also provide employment and support for local businesses.  ACI is advocating financial support from governments to keep these airports open.

Larger European airports are not immune during the coronavirus pandemic.  Most of them have cut costs as much as possible and borrowed money to continue operations at a reduced level.  Nevertheless, they have still had to make thousands of highly skilled workers redundant.  A workforce it will be hard to re-create as those affected find employment in other sectors.

ACI (Europe) Proposes Airport Testing as the Solution

Bournemouth Airport
Bournemouth Airport © Bournemouth Airport

Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe, states that safe air travel is a primary concern.  But it is also crucial to reduce the threat of airport closures.  He concludes “we can do a much better job of reducing those risks by testing air passengers rather than with quarantines that cannot be enforced.”

This view is strongly supported by major airlines and is already being implemented in countries outside Europe.

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