Europe air traffic and sales ‘just short’ of pre-pandemic levels: m1nd-set

By Kristiane Sherry |

Europe air traffic shows positive signs

m1nd-set’s Peter Mohn says Europe air travel data shows a ‘healthy revival’. Pictured speaking at the recent TR Consumer Forum.

While Europe air traffic will fall “just short” of pre-pandemic levels in 2023, its recovery points to a “healthy revival” of travel to and through the continent, Swiss research agency m1nd-set has said.

According to its latest regional travel and shopper research, compiled in partnership with IATA, European air ticket sales for the May-September summer period stand at 91% of pre-pandemic levels.

Although this is just short of the global 92% average, the premium travel share for the continent has exceeded the 2019 baseline.

Total air traffic and ticket sales are expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2024.

“Although the current summer travel period shows below-average performance at 91%, if we look at the full year, we can see Europe’s performance will improve,” said m1nd-set CEO and owner, Dr. Peter Mohn. 

“Standard economy class ticket sales, representing 89% of total ticket sales, will reach around 98% of the pre-pandemic level in the full year 2023, which is higher than the global average of 97%. 

M1nd-set - Europe Air Traffic forecast

Europe air traffic is expected to beat 2019 levels next year.

“Premium class travel however, which represents around 11% of ticket sales in Europe, will surpass the pre-pandemic level in 2023, reaching 123% of the 2019 figure.  

“This is excellent news for the travel retail channel, because our data shows that premium-class travellers spend significantly more compared to standard economy-class passengers.”

Europe air traffic rankings shift

There has been a shift in the rankings of major airports frequented by European travellers, m1nd-set data also showed.

For the first quarter of the year, five of the top 10 airports travelled to were in Europe. This is forecasted to shift to seven out of the top 10 over the rest of the year. 

M1nd-set - Europe air traffic premium share

The share of premium travel is outpacing economy.

London Heathrow ranks highest with 2.7% of all international departures accounted for by European travellers. Amsterdam Schiphol ranks second (2.4%) with Frankfurt third (2.2%).

Paris Charles De Gaulle and Dubai Airports are predicted to reach fourth and fifth over the next six months. 

London Gatwick Airport will rank sixth, entering the top 10 for the first time. Madrid is expected to climb one position to eighth, with Münich making its top 10 debut at ninth. 

European conversion increasing

Looking at travel retail performance, m1nd-set data suggests conversion is increasing over the first half of the year. 

“Footfall and conversion rates among European international travellers are in line with the global average, although this does vary when going into more depth, comparing across the various shopper segments,” Mohn continued. 

“Looking at all European shopper profiles combined though, we see that 45% of travellers visit at least one shop during their trip, which is the same as the global trend. 


Perfumes and alcohol lead share of wallet in Europe.

“It’s  encouraging to see that 55% of visitors to the shops among European shoppers purchased in Q2  2023, which is 2% higher than in Q1.

In terms of categories purchases, confectionery, perfumes and alcohol rank highest, and all above the global average, m1nd-set insights show. 

Perfumes drew 28% of European shoppers’ duty free spend in Q2 2023, significantly higher than the international average. Alcohol stood at 18% wallet share compared to 14%.

Self-purchasing dropped from 56% in Q1 to 54% in Q2, both below the global 58% average.

Gifting purchases increased from 20% in Q1 to 28% in Q2, now sitting above the global average of 25%.

Europe Air Traffic

Self-consumption ranks as the highest reason for purchase.

“The data is considerably more detailed and actionable when broken down by category, age segment,  traveller profile, destination and departure airport,” Mohn explained. 

“When we link these more detailed shopper behavioural trends to current and forecast traffic trends on a nationality basis, or even at airport  and airport terminal level, we see some very interesting current and future shopping trends for the specific categories and sub-categories, as well as for specific shopper segments.” 

Earlier this year, m1nd-set shared data which found that Latin American shoppers are “considerably” more likely to purchase new-to-them products and brands than the global average.

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