European airports slide to bankruptcy

Heathrow loses its pole position to Roissy-Charles de Gaulle

Photo: AP

Nearly 200 airports across Europe are on the brink of an insolvency abyss following the slump in air travel, the airports' trade body has warned. A report by Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has estimated that no less than 193 airports on the continent “face insolvency in the coming months if passenger traffic does not start to recover by the year-end”.

An estimated 193 European hubs are considered “at-risk airports”, ACI said, adding that they contribute to economic activity that creates 277,000 jobs and €12.4bn of European GDP. Airports at risk are mainly smaller regional ones with fewer than five million travellers each year, where closure would have an outsized impact on local jobs, an ACI spokeswoman told Reuters.

Larger European airports are also burning through cash at an unsustainable rate, with the top 20 European airports having added €16bn of debt - equivalent to nearly 60% of their revenues in a normal year, ACI said. “The figures published today paint a dramatically bleak picture. Eight months into the crisis, all of Europe's airports are burning through cash to remain open, with revenues far from covering the costs of operations, let alone capital costs,” ACI Europe director general Olivier Jankovec said in a statement.

Heathrow Airport announced that it has lost, for the first time, its position as the leading airport in Europe in number of passengers, coming second after Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport in France. A statement issued by the airport said that Amsterdam Schiphol in the Netherlands and Frankfurt in Germany came in next, behind Heathrow, reported. Heathrow was affected by the quarantine measurements imposed by the UK on travellers from several countries, as well as by imposing health checks by its competitors. The airport sustained losses of £1.5bn before tax in the first nine months of this year, with the turnover of businesses declining by 60% to £951bn. In total, 19 million passengers passed through the airport during this period, compared to 61 million in the first nine months of this year.

Data from ACI showed passenger traffic at European airports decreased 73% year-on-year in September, with 172.5 million passengers lost. The total volume of lost passengers since January 2020 is now 1.29 billion.

“As of mid-October, passenger traffic stood at 75% down from the same period last year, reaching an 80% decrease for airports in the EU/EEA/Switzerland/UK footprint - a clear downward trajectory,” Jankovec's statement said.

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