Air passengers up 35 % in 2021 following 2020 decline


In 2021, the total number of passengers travelling by air in the EU was 373 million, a substantial increase of 35 % compared with 2020, after the strong decline of 73 % (compared with 2019) due to pandemic restrictions.

Looking at the pre-pandemic year of 2019, when the total number of passengers reached 1.04 billion people, the number of passengers in air transport decreased by 64 %, indicating that recovery was still far away.

This information comes from data on air transport published by Eurostat. The article presents a handful of findings from the more detailed Statistics Explained article.

Data show that in 2021, all Member States, except for Finland (-16 %), registered an increase in the number of passengers travelling by air compared with 2020. These increases varied among Member States, from +10% in Ireland, +16 % in Sweden and +17 % in Latvia to +86 % in Greece, +105 % in Cyprus and +129 % in Croatia.

Extra-EU passenger transport represented 39 % of total air passenger transport in 2021. On the other hand, intra-EU transport represented 38 % and national transport represented 23 %. Compared with 2020, the share of extra-EU transport decreased by 5.5 percentage points (pp), while intra-EU transport increased by 4.5 pp; national transport increased by 1 pp.

Top airports in 2021

In 2021, the list of top 5 EU airports remained the same as in 2020, with Paris/Charles de Gaulle (26.2 million passengers), Amsterdam/Schiphol (25.5 million), Frankfurt/Main (24.8 million), Madrid/Barajas (23.2 million) and Barcelona/El Prat (18.5 million) leading the chart.

Palma de Mallorca (14.5 million) is now in the top 10, and München (12.5 million) dropped three places being the top 10 airport that saw the smallest increase in the number of passengers in 2021 compared with 2020, +12 %.

Palma de Mallorca in Spain saw the biggest growth on that list, +137 % compared with 2020, followed by Paris-Orly in France (+46 %) and Athinai/Eleftherios Venizelos in Greece (+52 %).