EUROPE. ACI Europe has issued a stark warning about the prospects for passenger growth this year after reporting a -1.6% dip in overall traffic year-on-year in January.

The airport trade body said EU airports saw a harsher decrease, averaging -3.8%, while passenger traffic at non-EU airports reported an average +6.8% growth.

Meanwhile, aircraft movements were down -4.8%, of which -1% has been attributed to the impact of the severe winter weather which affected parts of Europe towards the end of the month.

ACI Europe figures come from over 400 airports in 44 European countries, with the organisation’s members handling 90% of commercial air traffic in Europe.

Director General Olivier Jankovec said: “January was a difficult start to the year for many airports in Europe – especially in the EU market where nearly 80% of airports saw their passenger traffic declining. Even most of the usually resilient EU hubs lost traffic, while the recession at regional airports is getting nasty. On the face of it, this is looking like another 2009-style dip.”

In 2009, passenger traffic at Europe’s airports decreased by -5.9% compared to 2008, with 86% of the region’s airports posting year-on-year losses in traffic volumes, as reported.

Among the countries bucking the trend in January were Turkey and Russia, with airports reporting +12.6% and +11% increases in passenger traffic respectively.

Freight traffic figures also contrasted those of passenger traffic and aircraft movements, up +1.9%, although ACI Europe pointed out that it remained well below 2011 levels.

“Apart from the continued dynamism of non-EU markets mainly led by Turkey and Russia, the relative improvement in freight traffic is a welcome signal,” added Jankovec.

“It is consistent with suggestions that GDP in the EU is now bottoming out, with external demand expected to lead a pick-up in economic activity in the months ahead. If domestic demand follows, we could then see passenger traffic improving towards the end of the year.”

Examples of airports that experienced increases in passenger traffic included:

Group 1 Airports (more than 25 million passengers per year) – Istanbul Atatürk (+18.7%), Moscow Domodedovo (+13.3%), Moscow Sheremetyevo (+8.7%) and London Heathrow (+0.3%)

Group 2 Airports (between 10 and 25 million passengers) РIstanbul Sabiha G̦k̤en International (+10.3%), St Petersburg (+8.8%), Berlin Tegel (+4.6%), Nice (+4.2%) and Manchester (+3.4%)

Group 3 Airports (between 5 and 10 million passengers) – Bucharest (+49.3%), Warsaw Chopin (+10.9%), Izmir (+8.5%), Ankara (+6.9%) and Charleroi (+6.8%)

Group 4 Airports (less than 5 million passengers) – Arad (+4,984.4%), Chita (+69.9%), Vilnius (+35.4%), Ostend (+34.7%) and Vatry (+24.1%)

Passenger development by country in January 2013