Passengers fill airport terminals again

Passengers with masks and rescue personnel asking for health documents. These would be the only two major differences in Spanish airport terminals these days compared to the Easter holiday period of 2019. That year was the last Easter without travel restrictions.

Official passenger and aircraft movement figures for these days at Aena airports will be released by its statistics department in early May. However, at first glance, the change compared to the last two years is remarkable and the terminals are again as busy as usual.

The latest official data available from the manager of most Spanish airports corresponds to the month of March. These corroborate the good recovery of the aeronautical market in 2022 with nearly 15.6 million passengers in the network of commercial airports and heliports and an overall growth of 387% compared to March 2021. However, this figure is still lower than the same month of 2019 by almost 22%.

A traveler checks an information board at the airport


In last month’s ranking, five airports exceeded one million passengers transported: Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Palma, Malaga and Gran Canaria. Tenerife Sur has been left at the gates of a million and this is followed with figures that exceed 400,000 users, the terminals of Alicante, Lanzarote, Seville, Valencia, Fuerteventura and Tenerife North.

International airports

The department of another aeronautical organization, the ACI (for Airports Council International in English) has published the official statistics of terminals around the world. With these he created a

ranking in which the impact of the health situation by continent is clear. One of the most notable changes has been that the balance has shifted towards Europe and the United States after many years in which growth and top ranking positions have been dominated by several Asian airports.

In any case, the figures from the report with the ten busiest airports in the world show encouraging signs for a sector that has gone through the worst period in history. Even if it’s still beating, with part of the fleets still at a standstill, a good number of planes and professionals in the sector have already found the rhythm of yesteryear.

In the overall calculation, it is estimated that the total number of passengers in 2021 was close to 4.5 billion. This represents an increase of almost 25% compared to 2020, although compared to 2019 data the figures still remain at 50%, in particular due to the slow start to the first half of the year and significant travel restrictions in many countries. which discouraged, if not outright prohibited, international travel.

top ten airports

Analyzing the figures for 2021, there is a clear phenomenon of concentration of passenger traffic in the ten busiest airports in the world. With 463 million travellers, these collectively represent almost 10% of global traffic, an increase of 51.8% since 2020 and a decrease of 29.1% compared to the results of 2019.

Atlanta International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson, tops the 2021 rankings with 75.7 million passengers and 76.4% growth. It was followed by Dallas-Fort Worth with 62.5 million and near 60% growth, while third was Denver, which was close to 60 million travelers and over 74% growth over 2020. list continues to be dominated by American airports (Chicago, Los Angeles, Charlotte and Orlando) which had more than 40 million travelers, while the first non-American appears in eighth place: Guangzhou, in China and Chengdu, in the same country. The list of the 10 busiest airports last year is closed by an American: Las Vegas, which was 250,000 to have 40 million in 12 months.


Travelers with suitcases

Alberto Ortega / PE

The figures for the previous ten airports have a nuance: in these eight airports in the United States and two in China, the bulk of the traffic was internal, that is to say between facilities in the same country. The list is very different for ACI when it comes to passengers who flew between different states.

international travelers

In those that welcome the largest number of international travellers, the leadership was once again taken by Dubai airport, which held it in both 2019 and 2020. In 2021, 29.1 million passengers on flights to and from abroad have transited through its terminal in this emirate. . It was followed by Istanbul Airport, which, while ranked 14th in 2019, was second in 2021, with 26.4 million users arriving in or departing from Turkey on trips from other country. The 66% increase in international users over the past 12 months has elevated it to this position.

In the Netherlands, Amsterdam was third, with 25.4, followed by two other Europeans, Frankfurt and Paris-Roissy, both with 22.6 million international passengers. With a 41.4% increase in travelers thanks to the easing of restrictions, Doha, Qatar, was the sixth airport with the most international traffic at 17.7 million. It should be clarified that, as in the case of Dubai, the total number of travelers arriving or departing from Hamad airport in Doha is international, since neither this state nor the neighboring emirate have internal commercial flights.

The main airport in the United Kingdom, London Heathrow has gone from the second airport in the world with the most international travelers in 2019 to the seventh in 2021 with 17.6 million users. The strong health restrictions throughout 2021 in England added to the inertia of Brexit are at the origin of these figures which are even lower than those of 2020 with a drop of 14.7%.

Surprises in Turkey and Mexico

Antalya, which along with Istanbul is Turkey’s tourist-loving city, was one of the two big surprises in this ranking of airports in terms of the number of international passengers. If in 2019 it was 26th and in 2020 it fell to 31st on this list, in 2021 it climbed to eighth place with 17.1 travelers passing through its terminals (a third for domestic flights) managed by Fraport. German society is

manager of Frankfurt Airport and also operates those in locations as diverse as Lima, Delhi, Fortaleza, Ljubljana and 14 others in Greece.


Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport


The ninth airport with the most international travelers in 2021 was Madrid. That of the Spanish capital added 15.3 million in 2021. The rest of the passengers who transited through Barajas, up to a total of 21 million, were users of flights to the rest of the peninsula, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and Melilla. Finally, the tenth airport with the most travelers was a surprise for the sector: Cancún, in Mexico. If in 2019 the airport of the most touristic city in the state of Quintana Roo ranked 61st in number of international travelers, in 2021 and thanks to the Mexican government’s policy of openness, there is also the desire to travel Europeans and especially Americans, this airport rose to tenth place among the most frequented by international travellers, with 13.2 million travellers.

The smooth running of the load

Within the commercial aviation industry, air cargo has been the sub-sector least affected by the pandemic. In fact, during those years, it saw an increase in its volumes of almost 15% year-over-year and 3.5% more than in 2019, reaching an estimated record of 124 million. metric tons in 2021, according to ACI data. Pharmaceuticals, e-commerce and increased demand for consumer goods are behind these good results.

In this area, the list changes quite a bit, since some of the airports on the list are specialized facilities. It is opened by Hong Kong, followed by the American from Memphis, the Chinese from Shanghai, Anchorage in Alaska and Seoul in South Korea. The other five are Louisville in the United States, Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, California’s Los Angeles, Narita Airport in Tokyo and Doha, Qatar, the world’s 10th busiest airport for cargo in 2021 in terms of volume transported. Dubai and Frankfurt airports should also be highlighted in this list as major international air cargo hubs in the previous year.

In recovery

For Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director General of the ICA, the figures for 2021 are positive in the current context. “The list of passenger traffic in our organization shows an encouraging trend of

recovery, with most of the busiest airports before COVID-19 once again leading the way.” This executive said he joined his post a few days after the global outbreak of the pandemic.

“We are very cautious, as the recovery could still encounter several obstacles, although we consider the momentum created by the countries’ reopening plans to be positive. This could generate an increase in travel in the second half of 2022,” he said. he recognized, while considering aviation as an industry, he recognizes that it is “essential to stimulate trade, tourism, investment and job creation”.

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