Traffic at Germany’s main hub airport Frankfurt increased by 21 per cent year-on-year to 59.4 million travellers in 2023 but remained nearly 16 per cent below pre-Covid levels.

Traffic at Germany’s main hub airport Frankfurt increased by 21 per cent year-on-year to 59.4 million travellers in 2023 but remained nearly 16 per cent below pre-Covid levels.

The airport’s operator Fraport said Frankfurt had seen “significant recovery in passenger demand” during 2023, with traffic in December showing the “strongest growth momentum” since the pandemic; the airport’s passenger numbers last month were only six percentage points below 2019 levels.

Fraport’s CEO Stefan Schulte described 2023 as “yet another challenging year for the aviation industry”, due to factors such as the ongoing war in Ukraine, air restrictions imposed during NATO military exercises in Germany, and a series of strikes by air traffic controllers in France.

“Despite these adverse effects and in a mutual effort with our system partners, we succeeded in further stabilising operations in Frankfurt last year,” added Schulte.

“Our traffic performance for 2023 clearly demonstrates demand is recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic with people’s desire to travel remaining strong. Therefore, I’m optimistic for the new year 2024.”

The speed of recovery in airline traffic at Europe’s major hubs has varied hugely so far, with London Heathrow’s passenger numbers reaching 79.1 million in 2023, which was only 2 per cent below the airport’s 2019 figure of 80.9 million travellers.

Meanwhile Amsterdam Schiphol’s recovery in 2023 saw an 18 per cent year-on-year rise in passenger traffic to 61.7 million, but this was still 14 per cent lower than 2019’s figure of 71.7 million travellers.

The Dutch airport is currently planning a “limited reduction” in capacity in 2024 to “relieve pressure” during peak times. This move came after controversial plans by the outgoing Dutch government to significantly cut the number of flights allowed from Schiphol were suspended in November following pressure from the US and EU.

Fraport also operates a portfolio of airports in Europe and South America, with most of these international outposts seeing traffic “surge” in 2023. Slovenia’s Ljubljana airport saw the most impressive growth with a 31 per cent annual increase to 1.3 million passengers.

Elsewhere, Fraport’s 14 regional airports in Greece catered for 33.9 million passengers last year – an 11.8 per cent increase on 2022’s figures and also 12.3 per cent higher than in 2019 and Heathrow has also reported a near return to pre-covid passenger traffic.