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Europe’s airports report big drop in traffic

  Europe’s airport network rang alarm bells on Wednesday over the effect of the global recession on their business, reporting steep declines in passengers and cargo traffic since the start of the year.

The industry’s regional body ACI-Europe said travelers passing through the continent’s domestic and international terminals in January and February were down 12.2% compared with the same period in 2008, and freight dropped by 23.7%.

The figures were in line with similar falls in passengers and freight reported by international airlines and industry analysts said they showed how another, more community-based, branch of the global travel industry was suffering.

“The double whammy of falling aviation and commercial revenues is hitting Europe’s airports more and more severely with each passing month,” said ACI-Europe’s Director General Olivier Jankovec.

“On top of that, the capital intensive nature of airports means that we are also being squeezed by the ongoing paralysis of capital markets,” he declared in a statement issued from the body’s Brussels headquarters.

ACI-Europe links 440 airports in 45 countries, from giants handling more than 50 million passengers a year to tiny businesses such as Mostar in Bosnia which processes only 9,000.

Among major ACI-Europe members are Britain’s Heathrow, operated by BAA a subsidiary of Grupo Ferrovial, Germany’s Frankfurt, owned by Fraport, France’s Charles de Gaulle, part of Aeroports de Paris and Russia’s Moscow-Domodedovo, while its smallest members include Linz in Austria, Knock in Ireland, and Berne in Switzerland.

Airports around the world are closely tied to local economies, generating thousands of jobs and commercial activities in catchment areas, so a serious decline in their business can have a wide knock-on effect.

The growth in the past decade of smaller airports handling much of the booming budget airline and internal air travel sector in Europe and North America is credited with bringing prosperity to once less-favored regions.

The Geneva-based Airports Council International (ACI) says that worldwide, domestic travelers passing through its members’ facilities in February were down 10% and international passengers down 11% compared with the same month in 2008.

ACI, the industry’s global body, says travelers taking international flights from airports throughout the world were down 11.3% in February while domestic travelers declined by 9.4% against February 2008.

International freight moved from world airports was down 23.5% and domestic freight dropped by 12.4%, according to ACI’s latest figures. (Reuters)