165,456 passengers passed through Brussels Airport in February, which corresponds to a mere 10% of the number of passengers in February 2020. The ban on non-essential travel which applies since the end of January has a severe impact on passenger numbers, which are the lowest since the first lockdown nearly a year ago. Cargo traffic, on the other hand, confirms the good results of the beginning of the year with a 21% increase in air cargo volumes compared to the same month last year.
“The ban on non-essential travel imposed by the Belgian government at the end of January had a significant negative impact on passenger traffic at Brussels Airport,” says Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport. “Air travel is a safe means of transportation thanks to the many strict sanitary measures in place at the airport but also on board the aircraft. Travel must be made accessible on the basis of a Covid-19 certificate in order to restore the freedom of movement that is essential for citizens and businesses in Europe.”
Passenger traffic: down by 90%
165,456 passengers passed through Brussels Airport in February, down 90% on February 2020. This is the lowest number of passengers recorded since the first lockdown in April and May of last year. It is also lower than the number of passengers recorded in November 2020, in the middle of the second lockdown. In the second half of the month, the decline was even more pronounced. 30% of the passengers were transfer passengers, thanks to the network served by Brussels Airlines and its partners between North-America, Europe and Africa.
The ban on non-essential travel, which took effect at the end of January, has had a considerable negative impact on passenger numbers. A trend which is expected to continue all through March. The recent travel ban to and from Belgium issued by the Moroccan authorities will further strengthen the negative impact.
The flights that are currently carried out to and from Brussels Airport are intended for essential travel, both for professional and family reasons.
Cargo: volumes continue to increase
After a very positive start of the year, air cargo continues to grow with a further significant increase in volumes carried, up 21% compared to February 2020, despite the sharp decline in belly cargo (-60%).
The growth in the full cargo segment (+85%) is the result of the arrival of new airlines in the course of 2020 (Sichuan, HongYuan, Amerijet, VirginAtlantic), combined with flights that moved to Brussels Airport in February due to congestion at nearby cargo airports. Scheduled cargo airlines such as Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines also saw their volumes increase compared to last year.
Growth in the integrator segment (+50%) is explained by the routes DHL Express added to its network in 2020 and by the high demand for e-commerce transportation.
Trucked air cargo also increased, be it at a more moderate pace (+4%), as a larger volume was transported directly from Brussels Airport due to improved connectivity.
The total volume of cargo handled at Brussels Airport’s logistics platform grew by 17% compared to February 2020, totalling to 59,921 tonnes.
Import volumes increased strongly, especially from Asia and North America. Cargo volumes to and from Africa are still below last year’s level, mainly due to the lower number of flights operated by Brussels Airlines.
Vaccine shipments to and from the logistics area at Brussels Airport are increasing, with more than 100 flights to over 40 destinations worldwide. The number of vaccine shipments is expected to increase further in the coming months.
The number of flight movements in February 2021 decreased by 72% compared to February 2020, totalling 4,633 (compared to 16,538 last year). The number of passenger flights dropped by 85%. The number of passengers per flight averages 74, compared to 124 in February 2020.
The number of cargo flights increased by 47%. The number of full cargo flights remains well above the 2020 level. This is due to the high number of additional flights by passenger aircraft used for cargo only. The number of night flights die not increase. Several airlines use these passenger freighters to provide additional cargo capacity which partially compensates for the suppression of ‘normal’ passenger flights.