Istanbul Airport has outperformed most of Europe’s biggest hubs not only in June but also since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Olivier Jankovec, chief executive of airport trade association ACI Europe.
Istanbul Airport was Europe’s busiest airport in June, handling 5.996 million passengers, and nearly surpassed pre-pandemic levels, according to ACI Europe data released last week.
“This mainly reflects the fact that Turkey has followed much less restrictive approaches than other European states when it comes to lockdowns and travel restrictions,” Jankovec told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
He said the large size of the country’s domestic market was the second major driver of the airport’s performance, as domestic air traffic was “clearly” much more resilient during the pandemic.
“Finally, Istanbul Airport benefits from its state-of-the-art facilities and quality infrastructure and services, coupled with a strong and ambitious home-based airline network (Turkish Airlines), whose route network is diverse and truly world,” Jankovec said. .
“Istanbul Airport’s check-in areas, baggage reclaim processes, aircraft parking and taxi facilities, as well as our customers’ convenience at every stage of their journey, have increased his preference” , said Ahmet Bolat, chairman of the board and executive of Turkish Airlines. committee, told Anadolu Agency.
Post-pandemic woes in Europe
Regarding the crisis at many European airports due to delays, cancellations and strikes, Jankovec said industry players were scrambling to meet a boom in post-pandemic travel demand.
After being hit hard by the pandemic, air travel has seen a dynamic recovery since early spring, he said, noting how airports and airlines were caught off guard when travel restrictions were lifted. lifted without notice in most European countries.
“At the same time, many airports but also ground handling companies, which had downsized to be able to stay afloat, found it extremely difficult to get people back to work at the airport,” Jankovec said.
It has been difficult to improve facilities and services to meet the sudden surge in air travel demand, he said.
Jankovec added that recruiting new employees at airports takes time due to the need for security clearance as well as training.
“May and June were very difficult at some airports due to the combination of all these factors, but the vast majority of passengers in Europe still flew without experiencing major disruptions,” Jankovec said, adding that the situation is improving. gradually improved.
“I can assure you that this is the top priority for all airports and all operating partners, airlines and groundhandlers in particular,” Jankovec stressed.
Bolat also pointed out that to maintain liquidity and survive during the pandemic, industry players have taken a number of financial measures such as layoffs, which are now at the root of the crisis in Europe.
Direct aviation jobs fell 21% from the pre-pandemic period, down 10% for airlines and 5% for airports, he pointed out.
The difference with Turkish Airlines pays off
Bolat also said not being able to meet rapidly growing travel demand will hurt operational efficiency in addition to suppressing airline growth.
He pointed out that in contrast, Turkish Airlines has maintained its staffing level during the pandemic while providing employee training and preparing for the post-pandemic era.
“Today we clearly see the contribution of that dedication to our flight and operational efficiency,” Bolat said.
Jankovec said strong inflationary pressures resulting from the war in Ukraine are creating uncertainty for the rest of the year and 2023.
“We therefore expect significant demand pressures to come, translating into downside risks to air traffic on the European airport network,” Jankovec said.
ACI currently forecasts that passenger traffic in 2022 will be 22% below pre-pandemic levels, with a full recovery expected in 2024.
Bolat pointed out that the contraction of the US economy for two consecutive quarters, fueling fears of recession, as well as high inflation around the world, the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war and rising jet fuel prices could affect the outlook. for the coming period.
“However, our past experience shows us that aviation has overcome all the problems and managed to continue growing. In this regard, we see a bright future for global aviation and Turkish Airlines,” he said. .
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