More bright spots
Compared with the previous year, there were very few changes in the ranking of the fastest-growing European airports in 2013. More important is that overall cargo volumes saw an improvement – a slight improvement, but an improvement nonetheless.
Everything is relative, and the development of the European aviation industry is no exception. Although passenger numbers in Europe for 2013 increased at three times the rate of cargo volume figures - 2.8% passenger increase versus a cargo volume of +0.8% – this slight uptick nevertheless represents a turnaround after two years of sliding volumes. However, this level is still 0.7% below the 2010 figure. «Cargo traffic suffered as a result of weak domestic consumption in Europe and slower growth in Asia and Latin America,» said Olivier Jankovec, the director general of the aviation industry association ACI Europe. The problems were also home-made, said Jankovec, caused by, «structural factors, including the trend toward miniaturisation in consumer goods, and a pullback from just-in-time production,» both of which have led to lower volumes. Competition from other transport modes was the greatest source of pressure on air cargo, however, according to the association head.
The large-scale central European hub of Frankfurt/Main has apparently fared best in the face of the adverse conditions -- even though, as of the start of this year, the outlook there was anything but rosy (see box). Rhine-Main was the only airport on the continent to break through the two million tonne mark again following two lacklustre years.
On the heels of the number-one airport from the previous year came the other three million tonne airports. Their ranking was unchanged: Paris Charles-de-Gaulle, Amsterdam and London-Heathrow – but with differing business results.
Leipzig/Halle grew more slowly than it did in the previous year but received a higher ranking – which the first sentence confirms – than the airports of Cologne/Bonn and Liège, comparable in many respects. These two neighbouring airports in the middle of the «blue banana» – and to an even greater extent, Frankfurt-Hahn, which dropped out of the top 20 after losing nearly a third of its volume of the previous year (134,801 t) – have lost business, mainly to Luxembourg, which has started to recover following Qatar Airways’ temporary participation in Cargolux.
The development of the next tier of competitors was also mixed. In Munich, a court ruling on 19 February cleared the way for the construction of a third runway. Zurich, which traded places in the ranking, transhipped just over 300,000 t for the first time since 2002. With regard to the other two large international airports in Switzerland, Geneva, with its volume of 45,428 t, was ahead of Basel (39,775 t), but nonetheless saw a drop in business (–2.3%). Basel, located in the tri-border area of northwest Switzerland, improved its results by +1.7%, less than the +4% hoped for before the deadline for its annual results.
There was nothing to complain about the performance of a number of airports of a comparable size, and thus not shown in the listings. They include the airport of the Latvian capital of Riga (+72% to 46,391 t), the UK’s Birmingham (+26.9% to 24,317 t) – which, after East Midlands (see table) and Manchester (96,461 t) is the third-largest British provincial airport – and Oslo (+15.8% to 88,200 t), the airport serving the Norwegian capital. In neighbouring Sweden, however, business did not go so well: Gothenburg (–24.7% to 26,026 t) and Malmö (–13% to 22,217 t), together with Belgium’s Ostend (–14.4% to 45,486 t) were among the biggest losers.