EU air traffic falls for first time in three years


Passenger numbers at EU airports fell 1.3 percent in October, the first monthly decline in both passenger and freight traffic since 2009 as the euro zone debt crisis hit travel and business, airports association ACI Europe said.

Air freight traffic, a closely watched indicator of economic health, fell 2.2 percent in October - the 17th consecutive monthly decline - ACI said in its latest airport traffic report on Wednesday.

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"There is no escaping the deepening impact of the European sovereign debt crisis on the real economy," ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec said in a statement.

Air freight traffic was down 2.9 percent overall in the year to October compared with the same period last year.

The figures, which include domestic flights by low-cost airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair , showed a 0.15 percent decline in EU passenger traffic due to disruption caused by Hurricane Sandy, which mostly affected large European airports with the highest concentration of transatlantic routes.

Despite the fall in passenger numbers within the 27-nation European Union, European passenger traffic as a whole increased by 0.5 percent in October when non-EU airports were included, ACI Europe said.

Airports in countries such as Russia and Turkey continue to enjoy double-digit growth in passenger volumes, ACI Europe said, with a 19 percent year-on-year increase in numbers at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) published figures last month showing a 2.6 percent rise in passenger traffic for European carriers in October. IATA's data only covers international flights.

(Reporting by Charlie Dunmore; editing by Rex Merrifield and Louise Heavens)