Frankfurt Passenger Numbers Decimated But Cargo Remains Strong

As we move further into 2021, more airports are reporting their traffic figures for December, giving a greater picture as to just how grim 2020 was for the aviation industry. However, it’s not all bad news. While Frankfurt Airport’s passenger numbers dropped a staggering 73% in 2020, the airport handled more cargo at the end of the year than in 2019.

Frankfurt Airport, Passengers, Cargo
Frankfurt Airport saw passenger figures drop by a staggering 74% in 2020. Photo: Fraport

2020 was the worst year experienced by the aviation industry in history. The effects of the COVID-19 crisis were worse than others like 9/11 and the 2008 financial crash combined. Cirium estimated that the industry was set back 21 years to 1999 levels. Let’s take a look at just how Frankfurt Airport fared.

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Passengers down 73.4%

Over the full year, Frankfurt Airport saw its passengers drop by 73.4%. In 2019, a total of 70,560,987 passengers passed through the facility. Meanwhile, in 2020, just 18,770,998 passengers passed through Frankfurt. These passengers mostly used Terminal 1 as the second Terminal was closed for much of the year.

The crisis’s impact wasn’t profoundly felt in the first quarter of the year, with passengers only dropping 24.9% from 14,799,048 to 11,117,533 in 2020. If you take Q1’s figures out of the equation, Frankfurt’s passenger numbers dropped by 86.3%.

Frankfurt Airport, Passengers, Cargo
Frankfurt Airport’s passenger numbers suffered in 2020. Graph: Simple Flying

While Frankfurt Airport handled fewer passengers in April than on a typical day, it wasn’t all bad news. Year on year, its punctuality increased by 10.3% due to the decreased traffic levels. However, these reduced traffic levels mean that not all runways were needed, with one becoming a parking facility for Lufthansa’s Boeing 747s.

When you compare the recovery at both Frankfurt Airport and London Heathrow Airport, they follow a relatively similar pattern. Both airports saw their worst month in April, with recovery reaching a peak in August. Initially, Frankfurt Airport had the upper hand, being overtaken by the UK in September. Both saw a decrease in November, likely due to local lockdowns.

Frankfurt Airport, Passengers, Cargo
Frankfurt Airport’s passenger figures were roughly on par with London Heathrow. Graph: Simple Flying

Cargo wasn’t hit so bad

Cargo took a bit of a hit during the pandemic’s height as belly capacity in passenger planes was lost when they were grounded. However, Frankfurt is a central international cargo hub, unlike some other major European airports. All in all, the cargo handled was down 8.3% in 2020 from 2,128,467 tons to 1,952,628 tons.

However, October, November, and December all saw an increase in cargo handled year on year. Across the quarter, the increase in cargo handled was 4.9%. It reached a peak in December with an increase of 9%.

Frankfurt Airport, Passengers, Cargo
Cargo figures ended 2020 better than the previous year. Graph: Simple Flying

Commenting on the year, Fraport AG’s executive board chairman, Dr. Stefan Schulte, said,

“The year 2020 brought extreme challenges to the entire aviation industry. In Frankfurt, passenger volumes dropped to a level last seen in 1984. Cargo traffic was one of the few bright spots, reaching almost the same level as in 2019 – despite the loss of “belly freight” capacity on passenger aircraft. Aviation played a vital role in ensuring the supply of essential medical goods to the world’s population, particularly during the first lockdown.”

What do you make of Frankfurt Airport’s 2020 figures? Were they better than expected, or could they have been worse?