Fractional growth predicted for European airports in 2013

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Passenger traffic is projected to grow only fractionally at Europe's airports this year, after increasing less than 2% in 2012.

Figures released today by airports body ACI Europe shows passenger traffic at European airports overall growing only 1.8% last year and rising only 0.2% at European Union airports. That's in stark contrast to the near 9% increase seen at non-EU airports in 2012, driven by growth in Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Iceland and Moldova. Istanbul Ataturk and Moscow Sheremetyevo airports enjoyed some of the most significant growth, as passenger numbers jumped 20% and 16% respectively. Larger airports in Europe, those with over more than 25 million passenger annually, enjoyed the largest rate of growth in 2012 at 2.5%.

"More than ever, Europe is a two-speed aviation market. Since 2008, passenger traffic has grown by less than 2.5% at EU airports and by more than 38% at non-EU ones," says ACI Europe director general Olivier Jankovec. "For now, EU airports are stuck in recession for both passenger and freight traffic." Cargo traffic across European airports fell nearly 3% in 2012.

"The Eurozone economies may show signs of stabilising, but the 'positive contagion' referred to by the European Central Bank remains elusive when it comes to air traffic. This reflects weak business confidence and record unemployment levels in many countries, but also the woes of several European airlines which are downsizing and cutting capacity.

"While there are a few green shoots with air traffic now picking up in Ireland and Portugal, the outlook for 2013 remains grim for EU airports - and still very dynamic for most other ones," he adds. Based on the prevailing trading conditions, ACI Europe estimate nearly flat growth of 0.5% in passenger traffic at Europe's airports for the year ahead.

"Many airports are now facing a new reality of slower and more contrasted traffic growth," says Jankovec. "Given our industry's traditional reliance on dynamic traffic growth to sustain its capital intensive-nature and high proportion of fixed costs, this is a significant business challenge. In all probability, things are going to get worse before they get better."