Development of air traffic in 2013

Air traffic global development1

2013 was a good year for global air transport. Following a number of years of instability as a result of the global economic crisis, in 2013 strong growth was re-established. Globally, passengers numbered approx. 3.1 billion, of which approx. 850 million in the European Union. Flights numbered 33 million and in Europe alone average daily flights totalled 27,000. The number of passengers grew overall by approx. 5% on 2012. The cargo sector recovery was slower at 1%.

The growth of passengers transported in Europe (2.8%) was lower than the global average, while the regions reporting the highest growth rates were the Middle East (11.2%) and the Far East (7.2%). Despite this, the European airlines still hold the largest international market share with 38%, followed by Asia-Pacific with 27%. The aeronautic industry delivered more than 1,500 new commercial aircraft in 2013 and reported orders for a further 2,800 aircraft. 

From a safety viewpoint, 2013 was a very good year. The ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) reported that the global accident rate was 2.8 per million take-offs, significantly reducing on 2012 (3.2). There were 9 fatal accidents, with 173 deaths (388 in 2012). The ICAO General Meeting in 2013 adopted the GASP (Global Aviation Safety Plan), which seeks to reduce the number of accidents globally, both in absolute terms and proportionally (compared to the number of take-offs). 

Air traffic continental development2

The airport sector in the European Union reported in 2013 growth of 1.0%. The overall increase in passenger numbers, within a generally flat economic environment across the continent, was uneven. In fact, the non-EU European countries (Turkey, Iceland, Norway, etc.) reported an overall improvement of 9.6%. The increase in passenger traffic was achieved generally by an increase in the load factor rather than increased numbers of flights.

Poor performances were seen for Spain (-3.5%) and Italy (-1.8%), reflecting the GDP performance. Volumes were largely stable in Germany (+0.6%). 2013 therefore continued to be impacted by the two-speed performance of 2012. Italy placed fifth in Europe, after Great Britain, Germany, France and Spain in terms of the numbers of passengers transported (slightly more than 144 million). When considering however the ECAC (European Civil Aviation Conference) countries, Italy has been overtaken also by Turkey, which reported 149 million passengers in 2013, growth of 15%. This result is particularly strong considering Turkish air traffic numbers of slightly over 100 million in 2010 and of under 80 million in 2008. The European air transport market structure continues to evolve and currently non-EU airports make up 22% of total continental passenger traffic (in 2008 accounting for 15%).

Considering the most recent five-year period, the strong performance of the United Kingdom in 2013 was not enough to return the country to 2008 pre-crisis traffic levels. Italy placed third, after Germany and France, for overall growth (10 million extra passengers compared to 2008). Spain however suffered greatest from the economic crisis, with a reduction of 16 million passengers in the five-year period. 

Italian passenger air traffic levels remained very similar to France and Germany, although much lower than the other peninsular or peripheral European countries, in particular in terms of direct intercontinental flights. The change in the mobility indices highlights again the effects of the general European economic environment. Nearly all countries analysed reported significant improvements in the non-European mobility index and stability or a reduction in the intra-European mobility index.

In 2013, the concentration of airport passenger traffic remained stable overall. In Italy, traffic concentration is low (based on the spread of traffic according to the Herfindahl index), due to the greater concentration of airports with 3-5 million passengers compared to other countries.

In relation to cargo traffic, the European airports in 2013 reported increased volumes of 0.8%, amid decreased movements of 1.2% compared to the previous year. Despite the recovery of volumes transported, overall traffic remained lower than 2010. Luxembourg and Holland reported the greatest increases in tonnage transported. Italy also reported a good performance (+1.2%).

In the past five years, Germany has seen the greatest development - in addition to being the country with the highest level of cargo traffic. While in the five-year period the other European countries reported overall a reduction of 800 thousand tonnes, in the same period Germany reported an increase of 500 thousand tonnes. Cargo traffic in Europe remains concentrated in a small area, with Germany being at the core. The German airports moved 28.1% of cargo passing through European airports. That share rises to 49.2% considering also the Benelux countries. In 2013, Italy maintained sixth position in Europe in terms of cargo traffic volumes. Although having 12% of the population and a high level of exports, Italy represents only 5.3% of air cargo traffic. 

The concentration of cargo traffic is very high in countries such as Finland, Norway and France, where the market share of the leading airport exceeds 80%. In the countries in which the leading airport represents approx. 50% of the market (Germany, Italy and Spain), vocational airports typically operate in tandem.

Performance of the principal continental airports3

Uneven performances were seen across the continental airports in 2013. A number of the major airports achieved strong results: the airports of London (+3.1%), Paris (+1.7%) - thanks to the contribution of Orly (+3.8%) - Amsterdam (+3%), Berlin (+3.1%) and in particular Tegel (+7.1% driven by Air Berlin’s activities) and Copenhagen (+3.2%). Madrid airport continued to contract (-12.1%), which, despite the increased traffic contributed by Ryanair, has been significantly impacted by the reduced schedule of Iberia on domestic routes and in particular with Barcelona – and of EasyJet, which reduced the number of flights in the summer season by approx. 50%. 

In terms of the economic-financial performance, the net profit reported by European airports in 2012 was Euro 2.5 billion, with a net profit per passenger improving 13.6% compared to the previous year.

However, this result was assisted to a small degree by the increase in operating margins, which however was nearly entirely related to the decrease in the cost of capital, remaining however well above pre-crisis levels and comprising 30% of total operating costs. 

44% of European airports generated losses and the sector average ROIC (Return on Invested Capital) was 5%, well below the average cost of capital and also the average ROIC globally (5.9%). In addition, Eurozone airports underperformed (3.9% average ROIC) compared to the continental average.

In 2013, airport fees at European airports on airlines and passengers for use of infrastructure reduced overall 1.13%, excluding inflation. The reduction is even more significant if considering the incentives offered by airports to airlines to open and maintain new routes.

(1) Source: ENAC, 2013 Social Responsibility Report

(2)  Sources: ICCSAI, Fact Book 2014; CAPA, Yearbook 2014; ACI Europe, Press Release 6/2/2014; ENAC, 2013 Social Responsibility Report

(3)  Source: ACI Europe, Press release of 17/6/2014