Istanbul Airport again Europe’s busiest airport

Turkish Airlines

Official data has recently announced that for the second year in a row, Istanbul Airport has claimed the title as Europe’s busiest, despite the challenges the country has faced and the impact the Coronavirus pandemic had on the travel industry. Official data from the Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) showed that Istanbul Airport welcomed almost 37 million passengers.

Why Istanbul Airport?

Taking the title of Europe’s busiest airport first in 2020, a year after first opening, the stunning steel and glass structure that stands on the Black Sea coast won the coveted title partly due to Turkey’s decision to let travellers enter the country to boost their tourism revenue. 2020 saw just under 23.5 million passengers travel through the airport.

What about other Airports?

Operations from the old Ataturk Airport were taken over in 2019 by Istanbul Airport as it became the new hub for the national flag carrier Turkish Airlines. When compared to other international airports, it was Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport that ranked second by welcoming 31 million passengers.

The traditional European travel capitals such as Amsterdam, Paris, and London saw passenger numbers crash as worldwide carriers scrambled to rearrange flight logs to fit with the pandemic.

The “Majors”

The Majors is a term used for the five busiest airports in the region for the year, and after Istanbul came Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, playing host to 26.2 million passengers, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, with almost 25.5 million passengers, and another Moscow airport, Domodedovo, with just over 25 million. The other airport in Istanbul, Sabiha Gokcen Airport and the Mediterranean resort city Antalya Airport ranked seventh and ninth with 24.99 million and 21.3 million passengers, respectively.

Passenger numbers down by 1.4 billion

According to ACI Europe data, comparing 2020 to 2021 saw passenger numbers travelling through the European airport network increase by 37%. However, this was still a colossal 59% below pre-pandemic (2019) levels. The data also showed that in 2021, the European travel market lost 1.4 billion passengers compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The ACI Europe Director General, Olivier Jankovec explained: “After losing 1.72 billion passengers in 2020, we all had high hopes for a strong recovery in 2021. But last year proved another difficult one, as Europe’s airports ended up losing another 1.4 billion passengers compared to 2019.”

Freight and Aircraft Movements

Aircraft movements increased by just over 23% when compared to 2020, but this was down almost 50% against the numbers recorded in 2019. Data also shows that freight traffic increased by just over 20% in 2020.


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