Last year, national airports handled 67.5 million passengers and received 243.8 thousand planes on commercial flights, figures that show that, in Portugal, air transport has already recovered from the impact of the pandemic and is growing above 2019 levels, according to data revealed this Wednesday, 14 February, by the National Statistics Institute (INE).

INE data show that last year, the number of passengers handled at national airports was 18.9 percent above that recorded in 2022 and also grew by 12.3 percent compared to 2019, the last year before the pandemic and which had brought several records for national tourism, including airports, which had handled just over 60 million passengers that year.

National airports also registered a record number of planes landing last year, which grew 12.0 percent relative to the previous year and 7.0 percent in relation to the accumulated of 2019.

By airports, last year’s highlight was Lisbon, which handled 49.8 percent of total passengers, an absolute number of 33.6 million passengers, which represents an increase of 19.1 percent compared to 2022 and 7.9 percent compared to 2019.

However, INE says that “considering the three airports with the highest annual passenger traffic, Porto airport recorded the highest growth compared to 2022 (+20.3 percent) and 2019 (+16.0 percent).”

Regarding the countries of origin and destination of the flights, INE also states that the ranking of the five main countries “did not change compared to the previous year”, with emphasis on the United Kingdom, which remained “the main country of origin and destination of flights, registering a growth of 16.5 percent in the number of passengers disembarked and 16.9 percent in the number of passengers boarded.”

France and Spain occupied, respectively, the second and third positions in the ranking, followed by Germany which, despite having registered the lowest growth, in both directions, maintained the fourth position, while Italy occupies the fifth place and recorded the greatest growth (+31.2 percent and +31.0 percent in the number of passengers disembarked and embarked, respectively).

December maintained 2023 trend

Contributing to last year's numbers being positive was also the last month of 2023, which saw 4.5 million passengers handled at national airports, which represents an increase of 9.3 percent compared to December 2022 and 13 .7 percent compared to the last month of 2019.

In December 2023, national airports saw, on average, the disembarkation of 75.9 thousand passengers per day, a figure that, according to INE, was “higher than that recorded in December 2022 (69.4 thousand; +9.3 percent) and 14.7 percent above that seen in December 2019 (66.2 thousand).”

In the last month of last year, national airports also received 17.4 thousand aircraft on commercial flights, an increase of 5.5 percent compared to the same month of the previous year and 8.7 percent compared to December 2019.

This month, adds INE, 82.2 percent of passengers disembarking at national airports corresponded to international traffic, which reached 1.9 million passengers, a growth of 10.2 percent. The majority of these passengers came from the European continent and represented 68.3 percent of the total, which indicates an increase of 8.9 percent compared to December 2022.

However, INE highlights that “the American continent was the second main origin, concentrating 9.4 percent of the total number of passengers disembarked (+21.2 percent)” at national airports, in December.

With regard to passengers boarding at national airports, 80.5 percent corresponded to international traffic, representing 1.7 million passengers and a growth of 10.9 percent. In this indicator, the main destination was airports on the European continent, which represented 65.1 percent of the total, growing 9.7 percent compared to the same month in 2022.

And also with regard to embarked passengers, INE highlights that “airports on the American continent were the second main destination for embarked passengers (10.0 percent of the total; +18.8percent)”, in December, in national territory.