- Passenger traffic continued to recover in Q3 2021
- Traffic has climbed back to pre-crisis levels in some countries (Costa Rica and Dominican Republic)
- The recovery in continental Europe (France, Portugal) is encouraging, following the relaxation of travel restrictions and introduction of the EU Covid Certificate
- Other markets were still weighed down by lingering restrictions (some of which are being eased) or by the lasting lull in long-haul international flights
Some 30 million passengers travelled through VINCI Airports’ network in Q3 2021, i.e. about twice as many (98% more) than in Q3 2020. Compared to Q3 2019, passenger numbers are down 59%.
Traffic recovery in summer 2021 confirmed that the trend is gradually heading back to pre-crisis levels. The figures rose sharply in France, Portugal, Serbia, Northern Ireland, Brazil and Chile, and even soared back to their 2019 levels in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. The fact that the pandemic is once again under control in most countries and the introduction of the EU Covid Certificate led to several decisions to partially reopen borders. Illustrating this upward trend in international traffic, domestic traffic accounted for an overwhelming majority of traffic on VINCI Airports’ network in 2020 but sank back to its usual level (28%) this September. However, international traffic has not yet reached its full potential as many countries continue to apply partial or total restrictions on incoming travellers. This is the case in Cambodia, Japan and the United Kingdom, all of which continued to enforce strict rules.
The trend plateaued in September compared to July and August, but is expected to head up again once restrictions are relaxed further. The pandemic’s resurgence in some countries, and a slower resumption of senior and business travel, caused traffic in September to flatten or sometimes decline at some airports, while the recovery continued in others. That said, the expected easing of several measures holding back international traffic (in Chile, the United Kingdom and Japan), and the recently announced plans to restart transatlantic flights to and from the United States on 1 November, should buoy recovery in the coming months.
In the sections below, unless otherwise stated, the changes relate to traffic levels in 2021 compared to those in the same period in 2019.
- In Portugal, passenger numbers practically doubled this summer compared to last summer. They are down 46% versus summer 2019. Traffic was buoyant in Porto in August (down 35%), where some routes reached or exceeded their 2019 levels (Zurich up 16%, Luxembourg up 6%, Madeira up 32%). Traffic at Funchal Airport (Madeira) is almost back to its 2019 level (5% below in August). The trend softened in September but the decision to open borders to tourists from Brazil on 1 September and to relax restrictions on transatlantic traffic to and from the United States should spur demand for flights this winter.
- In the United Kingdom, traffic remained severely hampered by the measures aimed at constricting international travel, which the British government continued to enforce throughout the summer. Passenger numbers at London Gatwick were higher than in summer 2020 but still significantly lower than in summer 2019. Due to the lack of restrictions on domestic travel, Belfast International Airport’s traffic increased more significantly. Flights to and from large British cities such as London (Gatwick, down 14%), Liverpool (down 11%), and Manchester (down 16%) made a particularly substantial contribution. Demand for air travel might bounce back once the rules on international travel are simplified on 4 October and once transatlantic flights to and from the United States can restart. JetBlue, an airline, had its inaugural flight between Gatwick and John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on 30 September. It will be providing four services a week for now then daily flights starting this November.
- In France, the summer season principally buoyed flights to tourist destinations. In Nantes, passenger numbers exceeded 2019 levels on some domestic routes including Nice (up 29%), Ajaccio (up 49%) and Bastia (up 29%) and some international ones such as Barcelona (up 13%) and Palma (up 12%). Toulon Hyères Airport benefited from the deferment of some international flights until August: flights to and from Orly and Charles de Gaulle in Paris climbed back to their 2019 level, and traffic to and from other destinations soared considerably higher (Brest up 35%, Nantes 3.5 times higher, Ajaccio up 12%, Bastia up 39%). Traffic at Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport also grew significantly over Q3 2021. Some domestic routes such as the ones to and from Corsica (with Ajaccio up 17% and Bastia up 28%) and other routes to and from southern Europe (with Porto down 19% and Palma up 22%) contributed substantially. The trend slowed towards the end of the quarter as the number of business and senior travellers diminished.
- In Serbia, passenger numbers tripled compared to summer 2020. In July and August, demand for flights was boosted by tourist destinations in Turkey (Antalya up 13%) and Egypt (Hurghada up 30%). Traffic shrank towards the end of the quarter due to a resurgence in the pandemic, but airlines’ flight schedules for the coming months still look encouraging.
- In Sweden, traffic at Stockholm Skavsta Airport more than doubled compared to summer 2020, especially on account of brisk demand for flights to and from Poland to visit friends and relatives.
- In Japan, the state of emergency remained in effect during the summer and the pandemic worsened, dampening the upswing in traffic that had started in August when the holiday season began. The traffic bulk was domestic, as the country’s border enforcement measures continue to curb international travel.
- In Cambodia, the very tight restrictions on passengers entering the country remained in place, precluding traffic resumption during the quarter.
- In the United States, passenger numbers at Orlando Sanford International Airport is gradually approaching the level of 2019. Traffic on some routes was even higher than in 2019 (Asheville up 22%, Allentown up 7%, Cincinnati up 5%). As a sign of this recovery, Swoop and Flair, two Canadian low-cost airlines, announced plans to provide new services between Canada and Orlando this winter.
- In Costa Rica, traffic climbed back to its 2019 level (0.5% higher over the period). The country, which further eased its restrictions in early August, is seeing buoyant passenger traffic to and from the United States, especially on services to New York (JFK, up 40%), Los Angeles (up 7%) and Miami (up 2%). American Airlines will start weekly flights to Chicago on 6 November.
- Traffic at airports in the Dominican Republic hovered above its pre-pandemic levels for several weeks. The main contributors included flights between Santo Domingo and the Eastern Seaboard (Newark Liberty serving New York up 53%, Boston up 41%, Fort Lauderdale up 52% and Miami up 23%), and transatlantic flights (Madrid up 22%). The destination’s appeal among North American holidaymakers prompted several airlines to start providing new services – for instance Spirit Airlines, which started operating 4 daily flights between Orlando and Santo Domingo on 8 July.
- The number of passengers who travelled through Salvador Bahia Airport in Brazil tripled compared to summer 2020 and continues to rise towards its 2019 level. Some routes attracted more passengers than in 2019, for instance the ones to and from São Paulo (Congonhas up 4%, Viracopos up 17%) and Rio (Santos Dumont up 6-fold). Illustrating this momentum, Azul, an airline, will start operating 3 new services, between Salvador and Montes Claros, Porto Velho, and São José do Rio Preto, on 17 December.
- In Chile, traffic is 57% lower than in summer 2019, but grew by 21 percentage points over the quarter. As the pandemic subsided, most regions reopened and domestic traffic to and from Santiago has resumed. International traffic is still sluggish as the borders remain closed, but could pick up when the country reopens for foreign tourists on 1 October, which is when the southern hemisphere’s tourist season begins.