Over 350 airports’ and airlines’ representatives gathered in Athens at the 26th Airports Council International (ACI) Europe Annual Congress and Exhibition, hosted by Athens International Airport (AIA), between 20-22nd of June. “For the second consecutive year, 2015 saw a strong growth in air traffic with European airports”, underlined Olivier Jankovec, Director General ACI Europe.
Yiannis N. Paraschis, General Director – Athens International Airport, host of the event, welcomed the participants to the 26th Airports Council International (ACI) Europe Annual Congress and Exhibition, which was held in Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso.
Olivier Jankovec, Director General ACI Europe, presented the state of airport industry, which for the second consecutive year, 2015 saw a strong growth in air traffic with European airports welcoming in excess of 100 million additional passengers over 2014. This resulted in more than 1.95 billion passengers using airport facilities across the continent.
This summer, traffic growth looks set to be focused on intra-European routes, where Low Cost Carriers are adding capacity and increasing market shares. Growth on Intercontinental routes has generally slowed down, on the back of emerging markets’ economic woes and security concerns over Europe as a destination. The main exceptions remain routes to the Middle East and North America, with the later seeing traffic stimulated by US airlines adding capacity and Low Cost Carrier penetration.
The financial performance of Europe’s airports keeps improving, with the industry’s average return on invested capital (ROIC) now standing at +7.2% – in line with the cost of capital. However, airports in the EU and those in the Eurozone are underperforming (respectively +6.4% and +6.1%), even more so when compared to airports in emerging markets (+12.2%).
The evolving dynamics and structure of the aviation market are leading to changing air connectivity patterns for Europe. The 2016 Airport Industry Connectivity Report released by ACI EUROPE reveals that the continued rise of Low Cost Carriers & point-to-point services and the relative retrenchment of legacy carriers & hub and spoke services has led to an unusually strong growth in direct connectivity (+4.5%) this year.
However, most of the growth in air connectivity in 2016 is happening at smaller hubs and other mid-sized airports. Meanwhile, very large airports – and especially the major hubs – are experiencing a decrease in both their total air connectivity levels (direct & indirect connectivity) and hub connectivity levels.
These developments are pointing to a rebalancing in connectivity between the different segments of the airport industry, eroding the distinction between previously very distinct categories of airports. All of which is indicative of increasing airport competition.
Jankovec said “Whatever their size or location, Europe’ airports increasingly end up chasing the same airlines – especially Low Cost ones and non-European Full Service Carriers, as these are the ones most likely to offer growth opportunities. Combined with aircraft technology redefining route development possibilities, this means that the traditional segmentation of the airport industry is blurring – and that airport competition is increasing in both scope and intensity.”
Airport competition has already moved upmarket along with Low Cost Carriers and hub competition is on the increase – not just with non-European mega hubs but also within Europe. As shown by the 2016 Airport Industry Connectivity Report, some European large and medium-sized airports have been seizing new opportunities, developing into niche & aspiring hubs – with some of them posting significant increases in hub connectivity over the past years. These include Brussels, Dusseldorf, Lisbon, Helsinki, Istanbul-Sabiha Gocken, Keflavik, Dublin and Athens.
Security, main priority
Augustin de Romanet, President ACI EUROPE and President & CEO of Aéroports de Paris S.A. – Groupe ADP, addressed the challenges faced by European aviation and shared his views on related policy implications.
“What happened in Paris, Brussels, Tel Aviv and Turkey in the past months has also brought new challenges – on the back of increasing geopolitical risks and instability. I do not need to tell you that security – along with safety – will always be our number one priority. (…) The recent terrorist attacks have effectively taken us into a new security dimension – one that goes beyond aviation, and one for which we, as airports, can only be one of the last lines of defence. Europe is now faced with a much more diverse & diffuse terrorist threat. This means that aviation is no longer standing out as a target, and that security has become an issue for potentially any public space in our communities”, said Augustin de Romanet.
President ACI Europe referred also to the progress for aviation at EU level, by adopting the new Aviation Strategy last December by the European Commission. “With this Strategy, the Commission has come up with a new & positive narrative for aviation in Europe. We are finally getting the recognition that aviation is a force of good for the economy – with the underlying message that aviation needs to be nurtured. (…) The main focus of the Strategy is to improve our access to emerging markets and boost Europe’s connectivity. This is a very important agenda for Europe’s airports, as it will allow us to secure new business opportunities and develop our route networks”, said Augustin de Romanet. The president mentioned also that Commission will start negotiating aviation agreements with ASEAN, Turkey, the UAE and Qatar. “Similarly, we want to see continued application of existing EU aviation agreements – in particular with the US”, underlined Augustin de Romanet.
President of airport industry body mentioned also about the dispute with A4E, European airline association, on regulation of airport charges.
“We have demonstrated that airports have a track record for delivering substantial value to consumers. We have also come-up with suggestions as to how regulation could foster a better, more commercial dynamic between airports and airlines. In doing this, we are moving the debate forward, connecting the dots between 1. airport charges, 2. investment, 3. capacity and 4. connectivity – all in line with the Aviation Strategy. As I said, stand back and look at the bigger picture”, said Augustin de Romanet.
The 12th Annual ACI Europe Best Airport Awards
The 12th Annual ACI Europe Best Airport Awards were announced during the Gala Dinner of the 26th ACI EUROPE General Assembly, Congress & Exhibition.
The awards were presented to the winning airports by Olivier Jankovec, Director General ACI EUROPE, Angela Gittens, Director General ACI World, Salvatore Sciacchitano, Executive Secretary, ECAC, Filip Cornelis, Acting Director, Aviation and International Transport Affairs, European Commission, Philippe Merlo, Director ATM EUROCONTROL and Catherine Mayer, Vice-President SITA.
The first award, recognising airports in the ‘under 5 million passenger’ category, went to Keflavik Airport.
The winner of the ‘5-10 million passenger’ category was Glasgow Airport.
This year’s award in the ‘10-25 million passenger’ category went to Brussels Airport on the basis of its key investment in the Connector.
In the category for airports with ‘over 25 million passengers’, this year’s ACI EUROPE Best Airport Award went for the second year to London Heathrow Airport.
This year’s Eco-Innovation Award went to Avinor’s Oslo Airport.
The Accessible Airport Award, presented by Yannis Yallouros, Member of the EDF’s Executive Committee, went to Dublin Airport.
This year’s WBP Recognition Award went to Johan Schölvinck, Vice-President Commercial InterVISTAS, Consultant for NACO and Vice-Chair of the ACI EUROPE Commercial Forum.
Finally, ACI EUROPE created a special Leader of the Year Award category this year. The recipient of the award was Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Company, for his extraordinary leadership and courage together with his remarkable decisiveness and wisdom in managing the aftermath of the terrorist attack at Brussels Airport on 22 March.
Arnaud Feist thanked for the award, mentioning that his thoughts are with the victims and casualties in Brussel’s terrorist attack. CEO of Brussels Airport said also that the rescue and reconstruction teams deserve the award, which he dedicated to his wife, Beth, for understanding his passion for aviation and standing besides him during the last 15 years.
The 27th ACI EUROPE General Assembly, Congress & Exhibition will be hosted by Groupe ADP and will take place in Paris on 14-16 June 2016.
Special thanks to Robert O’Meara, Director, Media & Communications, ACI Europe
President for a second term
Augustin de Romanet was re-elected for a second term President of European airport industry body. During this year’s General Assembly, Thomas Woldbye, CEO, Copenhagen Airports was also appointed to the Board for a first mandate. In addition, Dag Falk-Petersen, CEO of Avinor AS; Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airports; Dr Michael Kerkloh President & CEO of Flughafen Munchen GmBH; Nicolas Notebaert, President of Aéroports du Grand Ouest & VINCI Airports and Kevin Toland, CEO of daa, were all reappointed to the Board for a second term.
Also in Athens, David Ciceo, General Director ”Avram Iancu” International Airport Cluj-Napoca and a Board Member of ACI Europe, presented traffic development in Romania and especially the important traffic growth in Cluj. In his opinion, the traffic growth in Cluj will continue despite the adverse trends in some of the European airports due to the increased terrorist threats and political instability in some countries, old partners for the European airports.
About ACI Europe
ACI EUROPE is the European region of Airports Council International (ACI), the only worldwide professional association of airport operators. ACI EUROPE represents close to 500 airports in 45 European countries. In 2014, member airports handled over 90% of commercial air traffic in Europe, welcoming more than 1.8 billion passengers, 18.4 million tonnes of freight and 21.2 million aircraft movements. These airports contribute to the employment of 12.3 million people, generating €675 billion each year (4.1%) of GDP in Europe.