Despite strong summer start, Europe's aviation industry frets
ROME, June 26, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Air traffic is booming this summer, but after
European vacations are over will passenger demand hold up?
The question was the focus of the annual congress of the Airports Council
International (ACI) Europe in Rome this week, held at the cusp of the
approaching peak season.
The summer period is shaping up to be by far the best since the beginning of
the coronavirus crisis that has severely affected the airline industry since
Some airlines, such as Ryanair, and countries, in particular Greece, have
already recovered or even exceeded their 2019 daily flight numbers, according
to Eurocontrol, a pan-European air traffic agency.
Across the continent, air traffic was last week at 86 percent of the same
period in 2019, Eurocontrol said, and expected to reach up to 95 percent in
August under its most optimistic estimate.
And companies are filling seats for the coming weeks despite the sharp rise
in ticket prices, long lines in various airports from Frankfurt to Dublin to
Amsterdam and strikes by flight attendants, pilots or air traffic
But after that?
"Visibility is low because there is a lot of uncertainty," said Olivier
Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe.
"We're now in a war economy in Europe, we have the prospect of a quite harsh
recession, we have inflation at record levels, so how all of this is going to
play into consumer sentiment... the jury's still out."
The director general for transport and mobility at the European Commission,
Henrik Hololei, echoed that thought.
"We really need to tighten the seatbelt because there's going to be a lot of
turbulence," he told delegates.
"We are entering... a period of uncertainty which we have never experienced
in the last decade. And that of course is the biggest enemy of the business,"
- Too many unknowns -
Hololei listed the war in Ukraine, high energy prices and shortages of
energy, food and labour.
"We have also interest rates which are going up for the first time in a
decade," he said.
The price of jet fuel has doubled over the past year, with a refinery
capacity shortage compounding the explosion in crude oil prices.
Fuel accounts for about a quarter of the operating costs of airlines, which
have passed them on to consumers in ticket prices as they seek to refill
coffers drained by the two-year health crisis.
Still, strong demand has returned, confirmed Eleni Kaloyirou, managing
director of Hermes Airports, which manages the airports of Larnaca and Paphos
in Cyprus, where the high tourist season extends into November.
"People want to take their holidays," she said, acknowledging, however, "we
do worry about next year".
The general manager of Athens International Airport, Yiannis Paraschis,
similarly expressed fears that "the increase in energy costs and inflation
will consume a great part of European households' disposable income".
The head of Istanbul International Airport, Kadri Samsunlu, voiced concerns
about inflation's effect in Western Europe.
And if consumer confidence is damaged, "We don't know what's going to happen
to the demand," he warned.
The last unknown hanging over European air travel in the medium term is a
possible new outbreak of coronavirus.
"Covid has not disappeared, and it is not a seasonal flu either," Hololei