A total of 6,743,395 passengers passed through Brussels Airport in 2020, down 74% on 2019 which, we would like to remind, was a record year. Unfortunately, the COVID crisis and the travel restrictions had a severe impact on passenger numbers in 2020, despite the very positive growth figures recorded in the first two months of the year. The cargo segment, and in particular air cargo, saw demand increase in 2020 especially for the transport of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies and recorded a 2% growth in cargo volumes.
‘2020 truly was a very unusual and difficult year for the aviation industry’, explains Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Company. ‘As from March, the sanitary measures and the travel restrictions made passenger numbers at Brussels Airport plummet. We had to constantly adapt to be able to safely welcome our passengers in accordance with current health regulations. Fortunately, our cargo department has been in great demand throughout the crisis, particularly for the transport of pharmaceuticals and perishables and for e-commerce. The major role Brussels Airport played since the end of November in the transport of COVID vaccines will undoubtedly continue throughout 2021. May this new year allow us, thanks to the COVID vaccine rollout, to welcome more passengers again.’
Passenger traffic: down 74% on 2019
6,743,395 passengers passed through Brussels Airport in 2020, down 74% on 2019. As was the case in 2019, 17% of these were transfer passengers.
During the summer months, the number of passengers grew to 20% of the number in 2019, before, unfortunately, decreasing again to reach a mere 12% in November.
In December, the Christmas holidays attracted more passengers than the weeks before. The number of passengers that passed through Brussels Airport in December totalled to 338,110 which still is an 82% decrease compared to December 2019. The Canary Islands (orange zone) were the preferred destinations for the holidaymakers Brussels Airport welcomed. Of the other passengers, a large number were visiting friends and relatives in Europe and North-Africa, within the limits of what was allowed and subject to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements. We also had some passengers who travelled from Europe and North-America to the African destinations in the Brussels Airlines network.
Cargo: an essential role in 2020
In 2020, the cargo sector at Brussels Airport was more than ever in demand. 511,613 tonnes of air cargo were transported via Brussels Airport, up 2.2% on 2019. Full cargo and express services have not stopped to outperform 2019 since the month of April. The strongest growth was recorded in the full-freighter segment: up 43% on 2019. This steep growth is accounted for by the arrival of new carriers and the use of passenger aircraft for cargo only (30 to 40% of the full-cargo flights). Express services also saw a good increase, up 18%. Thanks to this result, Brussels Airport continues to outperform the global and European growth in air freight.
Last year, the volumes of flown and trucked air cargo totalled to 646,540 tonnes, down by a slight 3% on 2019. This is explained by the logical decrease in belly cargo as there were fewer flights (-54%), but also by the drop in trucked volumes (-19%) following the increase in air cargo transported locally from Brussels Airport.
Imports originating from Asia recorded strong growth.
In December, a month that is generally very important for the cargo industry, air cargo volumes carried decreased by 3.4% on December 2019. This decrease is explained by the exceptionally high volumes that were carried in 2019. Express services did particularly well: they record a 34% growth.
Imports, and more particularly the cargo flows from Asia, are on the up whereas export volumes have decreased compared to 2019. The number of vaccine shipments from Brussels Airport is also growing. Already over 10 million doses have been shipped from Brussels Airport to destinations around the globe.
With 95,813 flights recorded, the total number of flight movements in 2020 fell by 59% compared to 2019, when we recorded 234,460 flights. The average number of passengers on board decreased by 68% to reach 104 passengers per flight.
In 2020, the number of cargo flights grew by 29% compared to 2019. These additional flights were all carried out by day; the number of night flights did not increase.
In December, the number of flight movements decreased by 64% on December 2019 to total to 6,308 movements. Passenger flights dropped by 77%, whereas in the same month, cargo flights increased by 41%. The number of additional flights carried out with passenger aircraft configured to carry all cargo is on the up, whereas the number of night flights or noisier wide-bodies remained unchanged.
Motivated and committed staff despite the crisis
The COVID crisis has hit and is still hitting the aviation industry hard and Brussels Airport has seen its passenger numbers as well as its financial revenues fall drastically. However, in this difficult context where Brussels Airport Company has resorted to temporary partial unemployment for a majority of its employees, the commitment and motivation of the staff have never faltered. Brussels Airport has always been very responsive in adapting to changing sanitary measures and travel restrictions, in order to be able to welcome passengers and staff in all safety. For example, the wearing of face masks, social distancing, hand hygiene, the cleanliness of its infrastructure and the COVID-19 testing capacity have always been the focus of attention. Today more than ever, our priority remains the safety and comfort of our passengers and staff. In 2021, Brussels Airport will keep this objective, while working hard to be able to once again, in the medium term, welcome more passengers eager to travel.