Air traffic to South East Europe reaches record levels

LONDON – The months of July and August 2022 saw a record number of air travel to southeastern Europe. The largest countries in this region, Turkey and Greece both saw their passenger numbers exceed that of the same period in 2019 (pre-Covid).

Turkey recorded an increase of 9% and Greece of 2%. Albania, considered a small destination with a considerably lower share of the European flight market compared to its neighbours, saw its passenger numbers increase by 28%.

The countries that did not see an increase are Slovenia, Iceland and Portugal. Other major cities in southeastern Europe such as Athens, Reykjavik, Porto and Malaga are all seeing a drop in air passenger demand of between 7 and 13%.

The best performing city overall was Istanbul, with flight arrival figures registering a 2% increase. The reasons for the good performances of Turkey and Istanbul include respectively; the continued disappearance of the value of the Turkish lira and the restrictions favorable to travelers, which meant that they did not have to jump too many hurdles to get there.

Before the pandemic saw large numbers of Russian travelers to Europe, however, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and sanctions on European airspace, the numbers understandably dropped significantly.

Departures within Europe as a whole fell by 22%. Outside Europe, the strongest market was the United States, which saw only a 5% drop in passenger numbers compared to 2019. The lowest were Colombia and Israel (9% ), South Africa (10%), Mexico (12%), Canada and Kuwait (13%). Overall, markets outside Europe were down 31%.

It is believed that European air travel destinations may have welcomed more travelers during the summer months if the industry had been better prepared to see the recovery in travel demand.

It has been well documented the difficulties faced by some airlines in trying to support the number of travelers before the pandemic, with a number of employees significantly lower than in 2019.

Statement from the European Tourism Association

Tom Jenkins, CEO of the European Tourism Association said: “Beneath the numbers, the anticipated challenges on the post-pandemic supply side within the European tourism ecosystem remain. Operators report difficulty placing business and erratic service levels due to understaffing and loss of knowledge of customers.

“Logistical constraints and new taxes at the destination add complexity and cost. Some hoteliers are doing well, reporting robust revenue at lower occupancy rates due to strong demand for reduced inventory. Others are struggling: even with high occupancy, profit margins are being eroded by rapidly escalating costs. »

“Although these things are not welcome, they are challenges posed by the return of companies. The industry is doing well, but avoidable headwinds (such as tax uncertainty) are hampering the recovery.


The UK is expected to be the best performing country in terms of outbound flight demand over the next three months, just 2% behind pre-pandemic levels.

Trends are expected to remain positive for outbound travel, with a 5% increase expected from September to November 2022.

unsurprisingly, Turkey at 20% and Greece at 5% both top the list of “best booked” destinations.

Mary I. Bruner