Brussels Airport registers a slight increase in passenger numbers in May, still 82% down on 2019. Airfreight continues to grow

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  • Slight increase in passenger numbers in May, still 82% down on 2019
  • Growth in air freight volumes continues with a strong 33% increase
  • Rollout of Digital Green Lane for digitisation of cargo processes

In May, Brussels Airport welcomed 405,000 passengers, down 82% on May 2019, but the first increase in passenger numbers compared to the previous months, following the lift of the ban on non-essential travel in April. Cargo traffic continues its strong growth with a 33% increase compared to the same period in 2020.

Passenger traffic down by 82%

405,000 passengers passed through Brussels Airport in May, a decrease of 82% compared to May 2019. Although this is a very poor number, it is already a significant improvement compared to last month (April 2021: 250,065 passengers). This increase was possible due to the lift of the ban on non-essential travel and an increase in European destinations where passengers can travel to once again, as the number of Covid infections falls.

The share of transfer passengers is 18%. This percentage is similar to 2019 as local traffic is recovering. The share of intercontinental passengers is 22%, now that non-essential travel has been re-authorised within Europe. The travel ban imposed by the Moroccan government continues to have a negative impact and is valid until 15 June.

Cargo volumes up by 33%

The strong growth in cargo volumes that we have seen since the start of this year is continuing, mainly due to the high demand for air cargo across Europe. Cargo volumes are compared to the 2020 figures as the Covid crisis has had only a limited impact on air freight.

Compared to last year, freight volumes on passenger flights increased strongly (+633%) but these volumes are still limited compared to normal times (-50.4% compared to 2019). The integrator segment experienced a 16% growth compared to May 2020 and the full-freighter segment increased by 22%. Therefore, the total flown freight volumes saw a growth of 33% compared to May 2020. The trucked volumes experienced an increase of 47% compared to last year.

In the full-freighter segment, there is an overall growth for all existing partners. The new Asia routes, started by our new clients in recent months, contribute to the additional growth. The activity in the integrator segment structurally remains at a higher level than in previous years thanks to the strong increase in online purchases.

Import and export volumes have increased, especially inbound volumes coming from Asia and North America.

Covid-19 vaccine shipments to and from Brussels Airport also continue, with over 105 million of vaccines handled at the airport to this day, making Brussels Airport an important h ub in the global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

Rollout of Digital Green Lane for cargo operations

At the end of May, a very important step was taken in the further digitisation of cargo processes at Brussels Airport. 12 cargo partners, 4 ground handlers agents and 8 freight forwarders have agreed to fully digitise the landside pick-up and delivery process from 1 June. This is possible using the so-called Digital Green Lane, a combination of four applications on BRUcloud, the data sharing platform of Brussels Airport, leveraging the pioneering work in digitising many processes in recent years.

Thanks to the use of these applications, all partners involved can work more efficiently and paperless, avoiding waiting lines and optimising their capacity and resource planning. Later this year, other partners will also join. Brussels Airport has the ambition to be the first fully digital cargo airport in the world.

Flight movements

The total number of flight movements decreased by 67% in May 2021 (7,021 movements) compared to pre-Covid times (21,055 in May 2019). The number of passenger flights decreased by 79%. The average number of passengers per flight was 106.

The number of full-freighter flights remains well above the level of 2020, with a high number of additional flights operated with passenger aircraft used to carry cargo only, without increasing the proportion of night flights. Several airlines continue to use these passenger aircraft to provide additional cargo capacity, compensating partially for the loss of belly capacity on normal passenger flights.

Brussels Airport, 9 June 2021

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