Passenger traffic at European airports declined 1.3% in October 2012, marking the first monthly decline in both passenger and freight traffic since 2009, thanks to the affect of the euro zone debt crisis on travel and business.
According to the latest report by Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, October reported flat growth for overall European passenger traffic with EU passenger traffic falling into recession.
Despite the drop in passenger numbers within EU countries, overall European passenger traffic rose by 0.5% upon the inclusion of non-EU airports, which reported a 7.8% rise.
The effect of Hurricane Sandy, which disrupted flight operations to the US in October, has also been observed in Europe, responsible for a 0.15% decline in passenger traffic during the month.
European airports also reported 2.2% decline in overall freight traffic, while aircraft movements also dropped 1.5% during the period.
ACI Europe director general Olivier Jankovec said that with passenger and freight traffic in the EU market recording negative results, the impact of the European sovereign debt crisis on the real economy is unavoidable.
"For the first time since October 2009, more than half of Europe's airports are experiencing declines in passenger traffic," Jankovec said.
European airports with passenger handling capacity of over 25 million per year (group 1), including Istanbul IST, Moscow DME, London LGW, Antalya and Munich, collectively reported a 0.9% rise in passenger traffic during October 2012.
During October 2012, airports with a passenger handling capacity of ten to 25 million (group 2), including Moscow SVO, Istanbul SAW, Dublin, Berlin TXL and Nice, reported a 1.5% rise in traffic when compared to October 2011.
Passenger traffic at airports that can handle between five million and ten million passengers per year (group 3), including Bucharest, St Petersburg, Ankara, Toulouse TLS and Charleroi, declined 0.3% during the period.
Airports serving passenger traffic of less than 5 million each year (group 4), such as Arad, Varna, Chita, Vatry and Sandefjord reported a 1.9% decline in passenger traffic in October 2012 when compared to the corresponding month in 2011.
Traffic at European markets including Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Greece, Latvia, Spain, Hungary and Italy fell into recession while the UK, France, Malta and Belgium experienced flat growth in traffic.
Ireland and Portugal reported positive signs of traffic recovery while Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden witnessed only slight growth, ACI added.
However, non-EU markets including Iceland, Russia, Turkey and Moldova reported double-digit growth in October.
Image: Istanbul Atatürk Airport in Turkey reported 19% rise in passenger traffic during October 2012.