Athens International Airport (AIA) was awarded the ACI Europe Best Airport Award 2021 in the 25-40 million passenger category, announced at the recent ACI Europe Annual Congress and General Assembly that took place in Geneva. The award recognises excellence and outstanding achievement across the entire portfolio of airport activities with a particular focus this year on the many ways in which airports are not only responding but innovating during the COVID-19 pandemic, while focusing on the airport industry's sustainability goals.
AIA won the judges over by producing a plan for recovery that focuses on improving customer and passenger experience through the implementation of the Greek concept of philoxenia and hospitality. Also helping to deliver the accolade was the fact that the airport embraces AI and virtual reality (such as measuring passengers' emotional engagement, offering a virtual assistant and 3D virtual airport tours) in its bid to bring passenger experience to the next level.
The traffic recovery is firmly on track in Athens, proving the resilience and attractiveness of the local market. As a result, the airport has experienced a fast and strong traffic recovery this summer, with 60% of 2019 passenger traffic returning.
Within this extremely challenging environment for aviation, AIA handled over 8.5 million passengers during the peak summer season (June to October), adding to the 1.5 million travellers which had used Greece's busiest airport between January and May. Total passengers at the end of October 2021 reached 10 million, achieving +32% growth vs previous year…having already surpassed 2020 full-year passenger traffic.
In terms of route development, AIA has reconnected 90% of its network and airlines versus 2019. While looking at the traffic handled during the summer months (June to October) on a more granular level, international traffic grew by +136%, while domestic throughput grew by +79% versus 2020. When comparing this year's traffic to 2019, domestic traffic hit 73% of 2019 levels, with international reaching 57% of the volumes achieved two years ago. In terms of aircraft movements, recovery volumes for the June to October period are even stronger, with domestic flights at +53% versus 2020 levels (-15% versus 2019) and with international at +77% versus 2020 (-20% versus 2019).
To maintain this passenger recovery, AIA is extending its very successful ‘Restart Incentive’ until March 31, 2022. The scheme was introduced last summer (July 2021) and offers significant discounts in landing and parking charges to all airlines operating international scheduled passenger services to/from Athens.