Cargo traffic through Brussels Airport in April 2021 continued its strong growth, with a 72% increase on the same period in 2020. But it handled only 250,065 passengers, down 89% on April 2019. This very low number is due to the ban on non-essential travel which remained in effect until 18th April and the array of travel restrictions and conditions.
The very good start of the year with strong growth in cargo volumes continued and even accelerated through April, largely due to the high demand for air cargo across Europe.
Contrary to the passenger figures, cargo volumes compared to the 2020 figures as the COVID pandemic has had only a limited impact on 2020 volumes.
The growth of air freight compared to 2020 is remarkable in all segments, in the integrator segment (+ 55), the full-freighter segment (+59%) and even in belly cargo, which rebounded from very low volumes in April 2020 (+492%).
In the full-freighter segment, Brussels Airport records general growth in the activities of all existing clients. Four new cargo carriers have come to strengthen the logistics platform at Brussels Airport by opening new routes to Asia: Azul, Japan Airlines, SpiceJet and China Central Longhao Airlines. 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 continue, with several tens of millions of vaccines handled at Brussels Airport to this day, making Brussels Airport an important hub in the global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.
Passenger traffic down by 89%
250,065 passengers passed through Brussels Airport in April, a decrease of 89% compared to April 2019. Although this is a very poor number, it is slightly higher than the number of passengers recorded in February and March 2021. After the ban on non-essential travel was lifted on 19th April, passenger traffic at Brussels Airport picked up in the second half of the month, a trend that is expected to continue through May.
However, the array of conditions imposed on travellers, e.g. testing and especially the quarantine requirements for travellers returning from a red zone, as well as the fact that several countries refuse travellers, have a negative impact on passenger numbers.
Passenger numbers are compared to those of 2019 because, in April 2020, Belgium was on lockdown and the number of passengers was limited to a minimum because of the travel ban. As a result, the number of passengers recorded in April 2020 was already much lower than it would have been in normal times (17,042 in 2020 compared to nearly 2.3 million in 2019).
In April 2021, 25% of the passengers were transfer passengers, thanks to the network operated by Brussels Airlines and its partner airlines between North America, Europe and Africa. The share of intercontinental passengers is again at a high level of 30%. The majority are transfer passengers and passengers who travel for essential reasons. The travel ban imposed by the Moroccan government on the other hand will continue to have a negative impact until the 10th of June at best.
The total number of flight movements decreased by 70% in April 2021 (5,879 movements compared to 19,710 movements in pre-COVID April 2019). The number of passenger flights decreased by 83%. The average number of passengers per flight was 85.
The number of full-freighter flights remains well above the level forecast for 2020, with a high number of additional flights operated with passenger aircraft used to carry cargo only. Proportionally, there is no increase in night flights or the use of noisy wide bodies. Several airlines continue to use these aircraft to provide additional cargo capacity to compensate partially for the loss of belly capacity on normal passenger flights.