Airport debt ratios more than doubled during Covid


New report from Airports Council International (ACI) World reveals the impact of the pandemic on a capital-heavy sector.

Airports Council International (ACI) World has published its 2023 edition of the Airport Economics Report and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), presenting a comprehensive view of the airport industry’s financial performance for the 2021 year.

With data gathered from 1,000 airports around the world which, pre-pandemic, accounted for more than 80% of all passenger traffic, the impact of Covid on the sector was profound. 

Due to the capital-intensive nature of the airport business with many fixed costs, the average cost per passenger far exceeded average revenue during a period of highly restricted flights. As a result – and with the industry in need of ongoing infrastructure investment – the sector increased debt significantly during 2021. 

During that year, the industry’s typical Debt-to-EBITDA ratio rose from 5:1 to 13:1.

Aeronautical revenue remains the largest source of income for airports, representing 50% of the total, although airports are exploring new sources of revenue on the non-aeronautical side of the business. These include real estate development to mitigate traffic risk and adapt to changing market conditions.

ACI World director general Luis Felipe de Oliveira said: “This year’s report presents an overview of the industry’s financial recovery trends across the world as it emerged out of the pandemic. There is no denying that airports are infrastructure intensive businesses—the cost structure is characterised by prominent fixed costs.

“Beyond the impact of the pandemic, airports need the support of governments through better global policy frameworks on airport charges. In a changed competitive landscape, light handed models of economic oversight need greater consideration in global policy frameworks on airport charges – Airports must be given greater freedom to operate as businesses in their own right.”

The Airport Economics 2023 Report presents an in-depth global analysis of airport industry revenues by source, costs and related trends across the globe and over time. Data for the report is gathered from over 1,000 airports of all sizes and business models, representing 82% of the world’s pre-pandemic traffic.