The Covid effect on airports traffic: Russia dominates European top 10 ranking

In the spotlight

The Covid pandemic has had huge effects on commercial aviation in 2020. But even more disruptive consequences derived from the travel bans, which have not been the same in every continent and in every Country. Just to make an example, for some six months Australia adopted a lockdown which practically separated the Country from the rest of the world. On the opposite side, Russia was not as strict, with its citizens free to travel to those Countries (like Egypt or the United Arab Emirates) which kept the door partially open for the touristic industry not to collapse.

Istanbul was Europe most trafficated airport (Wikimedia / Elgaard)

It is right for this reason that, as traffic figures at European airports in 2020 were released, Russian airports ended up dominating the ranking, even in the top spots with as many as three Russian airports in the top 10 and four in the top 12. Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO) ranked fifth, up three positions from the eighth spot it occupied in 2019; Moscow Domodedovo (DME) ranked eighth gaining  14 positions in one year; the third airport of the Russian capital, Vnukovo (VKO) grabbed the tenth position, gaining 19 spots; and Saint Petersburg Pulkovo (LED) came out as 12th with the major advancement among top Russian airports: 20 positions (it was 32nd in 2019).

Moscow Sheremetyevo gained three positions (Wikimedia / Alex Beltyukov)

Of course, even the airports of the former USSR lost a lot of traffic if compared to the figures they had amassed at the end of 2019: SVO lost 60.4% of its passengers, down from 49, 438, 469 to 19, 566, 402; DME was down 42.0% from 28,252,337 to 16,389,427 passengers; VKO saw its passengers almost halved from 24,001,521 to 12, 565, 241 (-47.6%); and LED finished the year with 10,944,421 passengers instead of 19,581,262 and a loss of 44.1%.

Moscow Domodedovo ranked eight in Europe (Wikimedia / OliBac)

But these negative results are nothing if compared to those registered by all major airports across Europe. London Heathrow (LHR), which was at number one in 2019, saw its traffic collapse from 80,100,311 to 22,109,726 passengers with a decline of 72,4% and the loss of two positions in the continental ranking. Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG) went down 70.8% from 76,150,007 to 22,257,469, but was able to keep its second position. The top spot was occupied by Istanbul International airport with 23,409,132 passengers, down from 52,578,008 in 2019 (-55.5%) and this is not for a chance considering that Turkey was another Country where lockdown measures and travel bans have not been as strict as in most European Countries.

Moscow Vnukovo entered the top 10 for the first time (Wikimedia /

Amsterdam Schipol (AMS) occupies the fourth position, losing one, with 20,887174 travellers down from 71,707,144 (-70.9%) while one of its most important rivals, Frankfurt, is fifth (it was fourth in 2019) with 18,768,601. The German hub, has been one of the worst in point of percentage of traffic lost at -73.4%. Only Barcelona (BCN) at -75.8%, Munich (MUC) at -76.8%, Rome Fiumicino (FCO) at -77.4%, London Gatwick (LGW) at -78.1% and Palma De Mallorca (PMI) at -79.4% made worse considering the top 100 airports in the ranking.

The 2020 top 10 of European airports is completed by Madrid (MAD) in seventh position (it was fifth one year before) with 17,112, 389 passengers (-72.3%), Moscow Domodedovo in eighth, Barcelona in ninth with 12,739,259 and Moscow Vnukovo in tenth. Munich (ranked eleventh) and London Gatwick (fourteenth) lost a position in the top 10 (in 2019 they had been ninth and tenth, respectively). Ranking from the tenth to the twentieth position see Munich followed by Saint Petersburg, Paris Orly (ORY), London Gatwick, Rome Fiumicino, Oslo (OSL), Lisbon (LIS), Zurich (ZRH), Athens (ATH) and Vienna (VIE). London Stansted (STN) and Copenhagen (CPH) were expelled from the top 20.

Vienna Schwechat ranked 20th in 2020 (Wikimedia / Stanislav Doronenko)

To give further a dimension of the amount of traffic European airports lost in one year, in 2019 the 100th busiest airport had been Trondheim (TRD) in Norway with 4,381,921 passengers, while in 2020 has been Katowice (KTW) in Poland with 1,445,781 (approximately one third).

In this gloomy scenario there is one single exception, meaning one airport among the top 100 in Europe which gained traffic during 2020: Anapa Airport (AAQ), which was not even in the top 100 in 2019, saw a total of 1,813,347 passengers enplaning and deplaning in 2020, compared to 1,641,000 in 2019 (+10.5%). Situated on the north-eastern shores of the Black Sea in Russia, it serves the resort town of Anapa it is managed by Basel Aero, a company which also controls Krasnodar and Sochi airports, it is a hub of low-cost Pobeda Airlines (DP) and had a brand-new terminal inaugurated in July 2017. Anapa is 84th in the 2020 European airports ranking, which sees a total of 11 Russian airfields in the top 100 positions, with six new entries: Ufa (UFA), Kazan (KZN), Kaliningrad (KGD), Rostov-on-Don (RVI), Anapa and Mineralnye Vody (MRV). (Photo header Wikimedia Commons / writpit)


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