The economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic seems to have no limits. And it is fattened, especially, with those sectors most sensitive to the restrictions imposed by the governments. For example, air traffic and airport operations have been considerably reduced worldwide.
The Helsinki-Vantaa airport, which has long been proud to be a growing hub between Europe and Asia, has seen most of its activity disappear in one month. The blow has been too great, despite the fact that in Finland the numbers of Covid-19 infections and deaths are still notably lower than in other European countries.
According to the latest statistics published by Finland's main airport operator (Finavia), in March Helsinki airport's passenger numbers sank by 57.2% compared to the same period the previous year. In total, the number of air passengers for all Finavia airports fell by 20.1% in January–March.
Great impact on turnover
To illustrate the seriousness of the situation, Finavia explains that on a normal day before the epidemic, an average of 57,000 passengers would pass through Helsinki Airport. But at the moment, the airport serves only a little over 1,000 passengers per day, and the number keeps falling.
Finavia estimates the impact of the decrease in air traffic on its turnover will be over 100 million euros this year.
The pandemic, which became a worldwide outbreak in only a few weeks, has affected the entire industry in very significant and far-reaching ways. The situation has also had an effect on airlines and companies that operate at airports as well as jobs and investments.
"We estimate that this year’s total number of passengers may be a third lower than last year’s. This is a much more dramatic drop than what air traffic has ever experienced before," says Kimmo Mäki, the CEO of Finavia..
Decline in passengers
At the beginning of the year, the number of passengers was still growing moderately. But as the coronavirus spread in Asia, the number of passengers declined significantly in February, particularly on routes to and from China.
"The impact of the pandemic is most obvious in the statistics for March, in which the number of passengers on routes to and from China fell by 95.8% compared to the same time the previous year," added Kimmo Mäki.
As the pandemic spread to Europe, European airlines’ demand decreased significantly due to restrictions imposed by the authorities and reduced travel.
In March, there were about 4,000 passengers (-89.5%) on routes to and from Italy and 84,000 passengers (-56.3%) on routes to and from Spain. 298,000 passengers (-55.0%) traveled on domestic flights in March, and the number fell sharply towards the end of March as the travel restrictions imposed by the authorities came into force.
Out of the larger airports, the number of passengers fell the most in Oulu (-26%), Kittilä (-13.5%) and Rovaniemi (-12%).
Border and health controls
At the moment, all persons arriving in or leaving the country will need to go through border control, and all persons arriving in Finland will also need to go through the health check-up points operated by the health authorities.
Other parts of the terminal have also been closed, both in the Schengen and the non-Schengen area.
Although many points of service were closed also in the terminal areas that are still open, Finavia says they will seek to keep open certain points of service, for example the pharmacy and kiosks and cafés. However, their opening hours will be reduced.