Ostend Airport experiences significant increase in cargo volumes in 2020
Despite drastic decreases in passenger numbers due to COVID-19 restrictions, Ostend Airport experienced a 112.7 per cent increase in cargo volumes.
Credit: Ostend–Bruges International Airport
Ostend–Bruges International Airport (OST) ended 2020 with excellent cargo results; the traded volume increased by 112.7 per cent in 2019 to 52,659 tonnes. However, the number of passengers decreased by 75.6 per cent to 111,499 due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite this, Ostend Airport is looking optimistically at 2021 and is convinced that the regional airport can create a safe environment for its passengers.
Freight transport via Ostend Airport ended 2020 with a strong result. The traded volume increased by 112.7 per cent to 52,659 tonnes, compared to 24,757 in 2019, which is the best result that the airport has seen since 2013. The number of flights also increased by 133 per cent when compared to 2019.
During the first lockdown in Belgium, there was a significant national demand for extra cargo flights, and part of the worldwide increase in cargo flights also found its way to Ostend Airport. For example, Magma and Qatar Airways operated flights to and from Ostend, and Egyptair significantly expanded its services. The goods transported related to medical equipment, food and e-commerce.
In the months that followed the first lockdown, some airlines, such as Qatar Airways, decided to continue flying into and out of Ostend. This allowed growth to continue and resulted in the annual figures more than doubling when compared to 2019.
The proximity of Ostend Airport to two seaports, the easily accessible mobility network around the airport and its good location for distribution within northern Europe, and also the UK, are great assets for the airport. On top of that, there is sufficient available capacity, as Ostend is open 24/7 and there are no slots or restrictions. One by one, these are assets that make the airport an extremely attractive site.
The airport continues to invest in the cargo segment. For this purpose, the airport has an agreement with the Belgian construction company, Versluys, to further develop the cargo infrastructure at Apron 1. These works are expected to begin in 2021 and should support further growth.
2020 started promisingly for Ostend Airport. With 42,000 passengers in the first two months of the year, the airport did 11 per cent better than in the same period in 2019.
However, in March 2020, like airports all over the globe, Ostend was confronted with a very different reality. The coronavirus pandemic caused all passenger flights to be temporarily suspended between mid-March 2020 and early July 2020. After good preparation and strict precautions, the first flight since March 2020 from Ostend Airport departed on 3 July 2020 to Palma De Mallorca in Spain.
The restart of flights led to a modest recovery due to a limited summer programme. Just under 40,000 passengers travelled via Ostend Airport in July and August 2020 to top destinations in Spain, the Canary Islands and Greece. In addition, there were flights to Turkey that were only available for passengers with Turkish passports.
From August 2020 onwards, the number of travel restrictions once again increased, which had another subsequent impact on the flight schedule. TUI Fly, therefore, decided to suspend flights from 10 September 2020 until the autumn holidays. During this holiday, flights were temporarily offered again to the top destination, Alicante.
On an annual basis, the airport ends 2020 with a total of 111,499 passengers. This is 75.6 per cent less than the 457,423 passengers that Ostend Airport welcomed in 2019. Despite the coronavirus crisis, the occupancy rate for destinations such as Alicante, Malaga and Tenerife was very high.
Safe travel environment
Ostend is ready and is convinced that travellers can travel safely and relaxed. The airport has invested heavily in safe and efficient procedures in recent months.
The regional nature of the airport ensures that only a few flights depart at the same time. In this way, there are a limited number of passengers in the airport building and social distance can be ensured at any time. This allows the airport to create an extra safe environment for its passengers.
Business flights through the General Aviation Terminal, operated by the North Sea Aviation Center (NSAC), held up well, despite the health crisis, and Ostend Airport noted only a seven per cent decrease in the number of movements when compared to 2019. Business flights via NSAC have already quickly resumed and are again approaching the levels of 2019.
Ostend Airport is looking optimistically towards 2021. For example, the airport expects TUI Fly to resume in spring 2021. The destination Murcia will also be launched. Furthermore, the airport is also looking to restart the successful connection with Moscow in the summer of 2021. In addition, the airport hopes to develop its freight transport and associated infrastructure, whilst also expecting the further growth and development of general aviation through NSAC.