Air passenger traffic quadrupled in Q2 year-on-year

Flight assistant working on an airplane
© Hollandse Hoogte / ANP
In the second quarter of 2021, 3.9 million passengers travelled to and from the five main airports of the Netherlands. While that is more than four times as many as in the same period of the previous year, it is still nearly 18 million fewer than in Q2 2019. The volume of air cargo increased by 33 percent and stood at 456 thousand tonnes in Q2 2021, which puts it above the same period in 2019 as well. As for commercial traffic, the number of flights in Q2 was more than two and a half times greater than the previous year at nearly 54 thousand. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this based on the latest figures on aviation.
Passengers carried to and from the 5 national airports
Month2019 (x million)2020 (x million)2021 (x million)

After a virtual standstill following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the aviation industry is slowly taking off again. Nearly 3.9 million passengers were carried in Q2 2021, over four times as many as one year previously. With 2.1 million travellers passing through Dutch airport terminals in the first quarter of 2021, this represents an increase of 83 percent. Following the government's decision to allow travel to low-risk destinations as of 15 May 2021, a combined total of more than 3 million passengers travelled to or from the five main airports in May and June. In May-June 2020, this was only nearly 750 thousand.

Increased aircraft occupancy rate

In addition to the passenger numbers, the number of passenger flights also showed an increase in the first half of 2021. There were 44 percent more flights in Q2 2021 relative to Q1 2021. There was an 88-percent decrease on the previous quarter instead in Q2 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The aircraft occupancy rate showed an increase as well. Whereas the average occupancy on passenger flights in Q1 of this year stood at 35 percent, in Q2 this was 44 percent. The average occupancy rate in Q2 2020 stood at 39 percent.

Occupancy rate of aircraft seats on passenger flights
Month2019 (%)2020 (%)2021 (%)

Most passengers travelling to Spain

A total of 593 thousand passengers flew between a Dutch and a Spanish airport in Q2 2021, representing over 15 percent of the total number of air passengers carried. In second place is the United States with 7 percent. The most popular flight route in the same period of the previous year was between the Netherlands and the United States, with over 86 thousand passengers, almost 10 percent of the total number of passengers carried, followed by the United Kingdom with 74 thousand passengers. Behind Germany with 57.3 thousand passengers, Spain ranked fourth with 49.7 thousand passengers in the second quarter of 2020.

Increase in air cargo transport

Both the first and second quarters of 2021 saw an increase in the total volume of cargo transported by air relative to the same period a year previously, by nearly 18 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

At Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, which in the second quarter of 2021 accounted for over 93 percent of the air cargo transported in the Netherlands, 426 thousand tonnes of cargo were handled; a year-on-year increase of 39 percent. At Maastricht Aachen Airport, which handled the remaining air cargo in the Netherlands, the volume of air cargo transported decreased by more than 18 percent to almost 30 thousand tonnes in the same period.

For many years, the bulk of air cargo has been transported to and from with Asia, particularly China. That has remained unchanged despite the imposition of the COVID-19 countermeasures. The second quarter of 2021 saw 77 thousand tonnes of cargo traded with China, an increase of 7 percent versus the same period a year previously and up more than 4 percent versus the second quarter of 2019. Of the nearly 64 thousand tonnes of air cargo transported within Europe, nearly 24 thousand tonnes were on account of Russia.

Air cargo transport to and from the Netherlands
YearQuarterAsia (1 000 ton)North America (1 000 ton)Europe (1 000 ton)Central and South America (1 000 ton)Africa (1 000 ton)