Covid-19 spread means airports ‘facing full-blown crisis,’ warns ACI Europe

By Luke Barras-hill |

Security_Brexit18ACI Europe says operators could absorb a €1.320 million/$1.500 million loss in revenues in the first quarter due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Lower commercial (non-aeronautical) and aeronautical incomes plus foregone revenue from ground handling and other services is likely to add to the woes of a situation that at the time of writing has infected more than 114,200 globally and killed 4,023.

Passenger numbers are tipped to drop by 13.5% (67 million) in Q1 compared to a ‘business-as-usual-scenario’, according to an initial assessment of the impact of Covid-19 carried out by the voice of Europe’s airports.

In a statement, ACI Europe says while the impact of the epidemic was previously marginal and limited to airports with air services to affected countries in Asia, the virus’s spread in Europe has left continental airports staring at a ‘full-blown crisis’.

Olivier Jankovec, Director General ACI EUROPE

Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI Europe.

ACI URGES QUICK GOVERNMENT RESPONSE

In Europe, Italy has suffered the worst impact, with the number of confirmed cases exceeding 9,100 – outstripping South Korea at more than 7,500 and Iran at more than 7,100.

The Italian government has extended quarantine measures across the country after initially locking down regions in the North such as Lombardy to curb the outbreak of a disease that has claimed 463 lives in Italy [correct at the time of writing – Ed].

Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI Europe said: “For now, airports in Italy are clearly the most affected. Even before yesterday’s decision to place the whole country under lockdown, Italian airports were already confronted with a dramatic free fall in passenger traffic – with decreases exceeding -60% at most locations over the weekend.

“But what they are now bracing for is a total collapse in air connectivity and the prospect of losing most of their revenues. We urge the Italian government to respond quickly and positively to the request Italian airports have made for emergency supporting measures.”

The association says the current situation ‘presents a unique set of operational and financial challenges’, with the need to maintain crucial air transport arteries therefore more important than ever.

‘SHOCK OF UNPRECEDENTED PROPORTIONS’

Coronavirus-Covid-19

ACI Europe’s initial assessment shows a loss of -67 million airport passengers in Q1 due to Covid-19.

Referencing the World Health Organization’s recommendation for international traffic in relation to Covid-19, ACI Europe stresses that travel bans and other measures that interfere with air connectivity should only be employed ‘as a very last resort and for the shortest period of time’.

It notes the need for cooperation between airports, airlines, governments and the EU given the financial pressures faced by airports and the ‘limited extent and scope for mitigation measures’; airports are required to remain fully operational with the majority following fixed-cost structures.

Jankovec said: “Airlines are drastically cutting capacity and cancelling air services as they respond to falling demand resulting from loss of confidence, changes to corporate travel policies, and governmental measures which directly or indirectly restrict mobility in their efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

“As a result, the Covid-19 epidemic is turning into a shock of unprecedented proportions for our industry. Apart from Italy, we cannot rule out that airports elsewhere might at some point also need relief measures to address cash flow pressures and keep fulfilling their role as critical infrastructure. This will require the support of governments and the European Commission.”

*Estimates are subject to revision over the coming weeks as the situation evolves. ACI Europe is monitoring the effect of traffic losses with its members and intends to publish an additional assessment of the past two weeks.

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