European passenger air traffic not expected to be back at pre-pandemic levels until 2025

ACI Europe says traffic has made a 'strong comeback' since last spring, but the recovery is expected to level off

Passengers inside the departures terminal of Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport. Reuters
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Passenger traffic at European airports is not expected to be back at pre-pandemic levels until 2025, according the body which represents the sector.

ACI Europe said traffic has made a “strong comeback” since last spring, but the recovery is expected to level off.

“Passenger traffic has made a strong comeback since last spring and has so far been very resilient in the face of increasing geopolitical and economic headwinds,” said Olivier Jankovec, the head of ACI Europe.

“However, we now expect the passenger traffic recovery to level off moving forwards, with the timeline pushed to 2025 before Europe's airports finally get back to where they stood before Covid-19 hit.”

In some areas, passenger traffic has fully recovered.

Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest hub, said its passenger traffic reached pre-coronavirus quarterly traffic levels between July and September.

Airports expect this festive season to be their busiest for the last three years, since Covid-19 hit.

Heathrow achieved 84 per cent of its pre-pandemic passenger numbers in October, thanks to the school half-term, the gradual return of business travel and a strong recovery in Middle East and Central Asia.

Staff at Heathrow and several other British airports are set to strike over Christmas, with passengers warned to brace for disruption.

British Border Force workers are due to start industrial action for several days starting on December 23.

It is feared passengers could wait for hours in passport control queues, or be held on aircraft, under airport plans to manage the disruption and limit overcrowding in a “worst case scenario”.

However, Heathrow has said most travellers will not be affected.

“We are doing everything we can to protect a full flight schedule on strike days, so departing passengers should expect to travel as normal,” Heathrow said.

“We are ready to welcome millions of passengers heading off to enjoy the holidays with family and friends,” Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said.

“We have extra people in the terminals on the busiest days, including me and my management team, to ensure we get people on their way as smoothly as possible and start to bring the joy back into travel.

“We are doing everything we can to protect full operating schedules on Border Force strike days and departing journeys and the vast majority of arriving journeys should be unaffected.”

Updated: December 20, 2022, 10:18 AM