The recovery of air connectivity around Europe continues to be "uneven and difficult," despite a strong rebound in passenger numbers this year.
Airports association ACI Europe said the return to pre-Covid levels of connectivity was being held back by some continuing Covid-19 travel restrictions as well as the impact of the war in Ukraine and "structural changes" in the industry.
According to ACI's new report, total air connectivity across European airports was still 29% lower than during 2019 and was currently at a similar level to 2009, which was the period of the so-called "great recession" following the financial crisis.
Some countries in Europe are faring better than others, although Greece is the only market to have fully recovered to pre-Covid levels of airline connectivity; meanwhile, neighboring Turkey is only 3% down compared with 2019.
Among the larger European nations, Spain is performing best at 23% down from 2019, followed by the U.K. (down 28%), Italy (down 32%), France (down 34%) and Germany (down 39%).
Unsurprisingly, Russia has seen a 62% drop in airline connectivity since 2019, following the imposition of sanctions by the EU and U.K., among others, following the invasion of Ukraine in February. Sanctions have included airspace flying bans.
ACI also highlights a continued deficit for "indirect" and hub airport connectivity (down by 36% and 34% respectively from 2019), which again illustrates how low-cost carriers have fueled the recovery in passenger numbers through their point-to-point services, with direct connectivity only down 15%.
The report said this structural shift in the sector towards low-cost carriers "looks set to stay" -- these airlines now account for 40% of direct air connectivity, compared with 27% before the pandemic. This trend is also boosting small and regional airports, which have recovered more quickly than larger hubs.
ACI Europe director general Olivier Jankovec said: "Connectivity performance varies significantly between airports, national markets and airline business models. These variations also hint to more lasting -- structural -- changes in Europe's aviation market.
"Covid-19 accelerated the changes in the market landscape for airports, where competitive pressures are increasing across the board as we see footloose carriers, which today includes both the ultra-low-cost carriers and also the low-cost brands of network carriers, intensively bargain with airports."
Source: Business Travel News