Brussels Airport saw 9.4 million passengers in 2021, 39% more than in 2020 and 36% of 2019 levels, as the airline sector begins to recover from the pandemic.
The industry was hit hard by the pandemic and related travel bans, but last year saw a substantial increase in the number of people travelling by plane as restrictions across the globe were loosened.
“For two years now, the aviation sector has been seriously impacted by the coronavirus crisis, but I am pleased that we were able to achieve a strong increase in passenger numbers in 2021, especially in the second half of the year,” said Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport.
“While the start of 2021 was still heavily affected by the travel restrictions and measures, from the summer onwards recovery began, and we saw travellers return.”
Hopeful attitudes about continuing the trend
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is hopeful that air travel will continue to increase in 2022, and so is Feist.
“We see that people want to travel and, together with all our partners, we make this possible in a safe way. The recovery will be gradual, but we expect to be able to continue this positive trend in 2022,” he said.
In 2021, 9,357,221 passengers travelled via Brussels Airport, an increase of 39% compared to 2020 (6.7 million passengers) when the pandemic was seemingly at its peak, but still a decrease of 64% compared to 2019 (26.4 million passengers), before the coronavirus began to spread.
The impact of the health crisis was particularly severe in the first half of the year, with Brussels Airport seeing only 16% of the passengers it welcomed in 2019.
Those figures began to climb again from the summer onwards, and in the second half of the year, no fewer than 7.4 million passengers travelled via Brussels Airport, an increase of 56% compared to the same period in 2020 but still 47% below the level of 2019.
August was the best month of the year, with nearly 1.5 million passengers, 56% of 2019.
European restrictions put pressure on sector
Brussels Airport says that passenger figures were clearly under pressure due to a worsening of the epidemiological situation in Europe and new restrictions on travel and test obligations, despite an uptick in holiday travel in December.
That boost was brought down by a travel ban to Morocco, which had a negative impact on the whole month.
The total number of flight movements for the airport in 2021 was 118,733, a drop of 49% compared to 2019 (234,460 movements). The number of passenger flights fell by 60% and there was an average of 115 passengers per flight.
The ten most popular destinations in 2021 were Madrid, Lisbon, Barcelona, Malaga, Rome, Istanbul, Alicante, Milan, Frankfurt and Geneva.