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Frankfurt Airport

Europe’s air travel growth: fast in 2017, slow in 2018

Air passenger growth was faster than at any time since 2004, but now it will be slower. Here’s why.

Air passenger growth in 2017 was faster than at any time in the last 13 years. But this fast pace is expected to slow this year, the airport association ACI Europe warns.

Passenger numbers at Europe’s airports grew by 8.5% during the year – the fastest rate since 2004, which was when air traffic was boosted by ten new countries joining the European Union.

But growth will probably slow in 2018, as rising oil prices, airline consolidation and Britain’s exit from the European Union all expected to give airline and airport executives a headache as the months progress.

“This might be as good as it gets, and while we anticipate continued growth in the coming months, it will most certainly come at a slower pace,” explains Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s director general.

Already slowing
Passenger growth slowed towards the end of last year, down to 5% in December, which ACI blames on the insolvencies of Air Berlin and Monarch, and Ryanair’s decision to slow growth to deal with its pilot rostering issues.

The outlook is good for European economies, but the oil price is putting pressure on airlines. Meanwhile, consolidation is reducing the number of carriers, which is also adding pressure to airport operators this year.

“Couple that with the fast-approaching Brexit deadline on the horizon and it’s not hard to see why Europe’s airports can expect the temperature to rise, as airlines get even choosier about where they maintain existing capacity or open new routes,” Jankovec says.

Busiest airports
ACI Europe has also released a list of Europe’s busiest airports in 2017 by passengers. Of the major airports, Amsterdam Schiphol grew at the fastest rate, up 7.7%. The ranking may change in 2018, however, because Schiphol has reached its capacity limits and growth at Istanbul-Ataturk is accelerating.

Among the smaller airports, Iceland’s Keflavik grew 28% in 2017 as tourism continued to boom there.

Europe’s busiest large airports in 2017:

1 London Heathrow, 78 million passengers, +3%
2 Paris Charles de Gaulle, 69.5 million, +5.4%
3 Amsterdam Schiphol, 68.5 million, +7.7%
4 Frankfurt, 64.5 million, +6.1%
5 Istanbul-Ataturk, 63.9 million passengers, +5.9%

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