European Aviation Symposium

Every second airport in Europe makes a loss

Michael Kerkloh, ACI Europe president and Munich Airport chief, explained the situation of airports in Europe.
Rita Münck
Michael Kerkloh, ACI Europe president and Munich Airport chief, explained the situation of airports in Europe.

The financial situation of many European airports is bleak, with nearly half of them in the red, according to Michael Kerkloh, president of the industry association ACI Europe.

The latest ACI studies show that 46% of airports in Europe make a loss at present, and most of them are smaller locations, he told participants at the European Aviation Symposium at Munich Airport on Wednesday. “71% of them record fewer than one million passengers a year,” he said.

Kerkloh, who is managing director of Munich Airport, saw little potential for further cost reductions by airports. Savings amounting to 13.8% had already been achieved in recent years. “The lemon has been squeezed dry,” he declared in a lively comparison.

On the other hand, massive investments are necessary at Europe’s airports, such as for modernisation of baggage handling systems, he pointed out. Kerkloh reiterated ACI’s demand for a reform of the air traffic management system, which is based on aviation and non-aviation revenues.

The generally positive message in this context is that passenger volumes are expected to keep rising. But managing this growth will increasingly become a challenge for airports, especially larger ones which are already operating at capacity limits, he warned.

This growth has been driven in the last few years by low-cost airlines which have ensured full terminals. “They have played their role in recent years to enable the top 20 airports in Europe to grow by 84%,” he disclosed.

Yet their expansion is also introducing new business models at airports, Kerkloh continued. These include self-hubbing, where travellers organise their own connecting flights through internet portals. Airports need to get ready for such disruptive trends, even those who are profitable today, he urged.

More than 40 experts spoke at the two-day event, which attracted some 200 participants. The event was organised by aviation consultants Prologis, fvw and the Travel Industry Club.