The team at airports group ACI Europe have this week published a report which sets out in some detail the economic and social benefits that can be brought to countries and local communities by an airport in Europe. Of course, many of these general benefits will be replicated in other regions of the world, but the statistics in this report relate specifically to Europe.

Some of the findings published in this report are quite staggering. Once Europeans airports’ catalytic, induced, indirect and direct economic impacts are taken into account, they support roughly 4.1% of total European GDP and 12 million jobs. It is no secret that improved air connectivity will result in an increase in economic output, but the ACI report concludes that for every 10% increase in air connectivity in a country the GDP for every person will increase by an additional 0.5%.

Of course, much of the economic benefit airports bring to countries can be attributed to trade and tourism, with the role that aviation plays in supporting these sectors self-evident. However, less obvious sources of economic potential are identified in this report, such as the catalytic effect of aviation on investment, which supports the ongoing work that follows investment as well as providing the capacity for the everyday activity of doing business.  

Indeed, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have just as much to gain from increased air connectivity as larger corporations do. Research by DHL, which is cited in the report, found that  SMEs that operated outside of their domestic G7 economies were more likely to have average annual growth of more than 10% over the previous 3 years.

The report concludes that these benefits can only be fully realised if the political environment is conducive to growth in aviation, meaning that air connectivity needs to be actively promoted as one of the pillars of the EU’s Growth and Job’s Strategy. Whether or not this happens remains to be seen, but anyone reading this report can be in no doubt that air connectivity is a major economic driver in Europe and should be supported by politicians and civil society alike. The report is a good regional companion to the global Aviation Benefits Beyond Borders report.

Some might wonder why the numbers in the ACI Europe report differ from the wider global report’s EU section. There are a couple of reasons, as they are counting slightly different things: the ACI Europe report takes into account on-airport jobs, rather than all aviation jobs. And, importantly, the ACI Europe report also considers the wider catalytic impacts of air transport (whereas Aviation Benefits Beyond Borders takes a more conservative view and only takes the tourism catalytic benefits on board in its analysis). However, both reports provide a good overview of the important role aviation – and airports – play in the economic and social growth at regional, national and global levels.