Portugal was reportedly the best-performing country for air travel in Europe, as commercial flights increased operations across the continent. Statistics site Eurostat reported that Portugal saw the best performance in the air travel industry when compared to other European member states. 

The amount of commercial flights in the European Union was reportedly 383,720 in December 2021. This was a significant increase from December 2020, which reported 166,990 flights. The figures from 2021 seemingly bridge a gap between restricted travel in 2020 and pre-pandemic operations, where flights reportedly amounted to 504,270. The number of commercial flights in the European Union increased by an impressive 130% compared to 2020. 

Portugal performs despite air travel restrictions

Portugal performed well in air travel despite restrictions being introduced in December 2021. New restrictions meant that commercial flights decreased by 13.9%, yet this was lower than the EU average of 23.9%. 

When comparing flights from December 2021 to December 2019, the countries with the smallest decrease included Croatia (5.7%), Greece (8.4%) and Cyprus (9%). Portugal was listed as having the fourth smallest drop compared to when restrictions were not implemented across Europe and the world. 

Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport ended 2021 with over 12.1 million air travel passengers. (Photo: Samuel Regan-Asante)
Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport ended 2021 with over 12.1 million air travel passengers. (Photo: Samuel Regan-Asante)

Reports indicate increasing air travel in Portugal

Research from Vinci indicated that Portuguese air travel was increasing at a steady rate. In a statement, the researchers noted that “in Portugal, traffic at airports returned in the fourth quarter of 2021 to a level equivalent to 73 percent of traffic in the same quarter of 2019 (3.2 times more than in the fourth quarter of 2020), with an increase of almost 19 points compared to the previous quarter”,

According to data, Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport ended 2021 with over 12.1 million passengers. This is a 31% increase when compared to 2020. Porto’s Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport welcomed 5.8 million passengers in 2021, a 32% increase from 2020. Faro Airport saw a significant increase of 48% when comparing 2021 and 2020. There were even bigger improvements at Madeira Airport, with a 73% year-on-year increase in visitors. The most successful though was João Paulo II Airport in the Azores, with 80% more passengers in 2021 than 2020, with 1.6 million visitors. 

“Passenger numbers connecting to the main European capitals increased particularly in October and November during the autumn holidays”, Vinci noted in a statement. Portugal registered a total of 239,671 commercial movements in 2021, which was an increase of 31% when compared to 2020. “Contrary to the situation at the end of 2020, governments did not impose such restrictive travel limitation measures, preferring to rely on screening and high vaccination rates in most countries”, Vinci reported. “The recovery of passenger traffic therefore continued in the fourth quarter of 2021 at most airports in the network”.

High-performing airports across Europe

Research from Eurostat showed that the highest-performing airports across Europe included Berlin’s Brandenburg Airport. The German airport registered a reported 13,521 flights, which was a 16% increase from 2020. Liège Airport returned 6,972 flights, which was a 21% increase from 2020. 

Eurostat reported that the air travel industry enjoyed a slow but steady growth through 2021. Improvements generally started in May, with flights increasing by 36% between May and August. October, November and December enjoyed a 6% increase in flights, reportedly the closest return to pre-pandemic figures to date. 

Among the airlines coping with restrictions are Turkish Airlines, Pegasus, SAS and KLM, which reported a relatively small drop due to December travel restrictions. Eurostat revealed that the busiest states included Germany, France, Spain, Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland and the United Kingdom. 

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