Freight didn't fare so well, however, falling by 1.8% during Q1, according to ACI Europe.
Airports reporting the biggest passenger traffic rises in Q1 included Vienna (+24.6%), Moscow Sheremetyevo (+17.6%), Antalya (+13.2%), Berlin Tegel (+32.4%), Seville (+21.4%), Caen (+46.5%) and Bucharest (+55.8%).
ACI Europe director general, Olivier Jankovec, commented: “While softening compared to the past two years, passenger traffic remains dynamic – especially in the EU.
"This reflects improved economic data in the Eurozone and a more benign global economic outlook for now. But, while prospects have somehow moved from a half-empty glass to a half-full one, black spots still abound.
"Volatile oil prices, continued airline consolidation, ATM disruptions and increasing airport capacity constraints will limit airline capacity growth in the coming months.
"On the demand side, sliding imports and a risk of trade escalations are ever-present. And over the medium-term, rising concerns about aviation’s environmental impact will likely add to the downward pressures.”
Traffic rises 4.8% at EU airports
The EU market kept reporting robust growth in Q1, says ACI Europe, despite March traffic (+4.1%) being affected by the Easter holidays slipping to April this year.
Airports in Austria (+21.6%) and Estonia (+13.3%) posted double-digit growth in Q1 while those in Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Luxembourg also grew well above the EU average.
Conversely, Sweden was the only country reporting passenger traffic declining (-4.1%) mainly as a result of the country’s aviation tax and fast increasing environmental pressures limiting demand.
Meanwhile, passenger traffic barely grew in Denmark (+0.9%) and significantly underperformed in Belgium (+1.9%) due to ATM strikes as well as in the Netherlands (+1.8%), due to severe airport capacity limitations.
Amongst larger/capital EU airports, the best results were achieved by Berlin-TXL (+32.4%), Vienna (+24.6%), Tallinn (+13.3%), Dusseldorf (+12.5%), Milan-Malpensa (+10.6%), Palma de Mallorca (+10.2%), Athens (+9.5%) and Luxembourg (+9.3%).
Traffic increases 2.9% at Non-EU airports
Airports in the non-EU market grew at a slower pace in Q1, mainly due to traffic losses in Turkey (-3.7% as a result of the recession affecting the country), Iceland (-8.8% following the bankruptcy of long/medium haul budget airline WOW in the final days of March).
However, passenger traffic in Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus remained extremely dynamic, achieving double-digit growth.
The best performances amongst larger/capital non-EU airports came from Moscow-Sheremetyevo (+17.6%), Moscow-Vnukovo (+13.2%), Saint Petersburg (+14.7%), Minsk (+15.7%), Tbilisi (+11.2%), Kiev (+15.2%) Antalya (+13.2%) and Sochi (+12.9%).
Weaker majors and smaller marginals
Passenger traffic at the Major (top 5 European airports) grew by just+1.7% during Q1. Paris CDG (+5.7%), led the league, followed by Frankfurt (+2.5%), while gains were limited at capacity constrained Amsterdam-Schiphol (+1.6%) and London-Heathrow (+1.4%). Istanbul-Ataturk saw passenger traffic declining (-2.7%).
Regional airports, especially smaller ones, tended to underperform the European average in Q1. However, several achieved particularly impressive growth – boosting their off-season potential as leisure destinations and yielding the results of proactive route development & marketing.
These included: Kharkiv (+28.8%), Dubrovnik (+25.4%), Paphos (+21.8%), Ostend (+21.2%), Toulon (+21%), Seville (+21.4%), Memmingerberg (+20.3%), Thessaloniki (+18.2%), Bari (+17.7%), Krakow (+16.1%), Wroclaw (+14.5%), Pau (+14.8%), Nantes (+14.2%), Faro (+12.3%) and Edinburgh (+12%).
Freight and traffic movements
According to ACI Europe, the decline in freight traffic in Q1 was all down to the EU market (-2.6%) as non-EU airports remained positive (+1.8%).
However, March saw freight traffic across Europe improving slightly (-0.2%) compared to preceding months, with both non-EU (+3.3%) and EU (-1.2%) posting better results.
Amongst the top 10 European airports for freight traffic, only four posted positive results in Q1: Liège (+12.5%), Istanbul-Ataturk (+6.6%), Madrid-Barajas (+5.7%) and Kazan (+3.8%).
Aircraft movements increased by+3.1%in Q1, with EU airports ahead (+3.3%) compared to non-EU ones (+2.1%) – on a slightly downward trend over the period.