By Curtis Grad (Vancouver, Canada)
Not necessarily the first name that comes to mind when listing European international airport operators, the Flughafen Wien Group (FWAG) was one of the first to enter the international airport operator market with its acquisition of a material minority stake in Malta International Airport (MLA) in 2002.
Based in Vienna, Austria, FWAG operates three international airports and one airfield in three countries:
- Vienna International Airport (Austria)
- Malta International Airport (Malta)
- Košice International Airport (Slovakia), and
- Bad Vöslau Airfield (Austria).
In 2019, the three international airports handled 39.5 million passengers, up 5.1 million from 2018 (+14.8%). Predictably, 2020 passenger traffic plummeted due to COVID19, totaling 9.6 million (-75.7%). VIE is a key aviation hub for Eastern Europe connectivity, handling 31.6 million passengers in 2019 (7.8 million in 2020).
As Austria’s capital city airport, VIE is one of the country’s largest employers and a significant value driver for the national economy.
Reflecting on ongoing pandemic impacts, Julian Jäger, Member of the Management Board of Flughafen Wien AG advises;
the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still strongly felt at Vienna Airport, but we are cautiously optimistic about the future. For 2021 we expect the total number of passengers to be about 40% of what it was before the outbreak of the crisis and for 2022 and 2023 we expect passenger figures up to 70% and 80%. People are willing to travel again. Once there are unified international travel regulations with recognised vaccination and test certificates the aviation and tourism business will come back to its pre-pandemic dimensions. Several countries and airlines are already working on health passports for travelling and we are optimistic that there will be some at least Europe-wide solutions very soon. In any case, Vienna Airport has proven to be an indispensable traffic hub during this crisis: The airport is in operation during the whole crisis period, more than 2.000 tonnes of medical aid supplies were delivered by airplane in 2020 and many thousands of passengers were brought back to their hometowns with repatriation flights. Contrary to the passenger figures, cargo business has declined much less and will fully recover before the end of this year. Vienna Airport has invested a lot in its cargo infrastructure in recent years and has positioned itself well in the European East.”
Malta Airport (MLA) was recording strong pre-pandemic passenger growth, handling 7.3 million passengers in 2019 (1.7 million in 2020). MLA is the home base for Air Malta and Medavia, as well as a network base for Ryanair and its subsidiary Malta Air.
Košice Airport (KSC), the second busiest airport in Slovakia, handled 558,000 passengers in 2019 (92,000 in 2020) and posted steady year-over-year passenger growth leading up to the pandemic.
Vöslau Airfield is of local importance and is primarily used for private aviation.