European airport association ACI Europe has blamed a spate of airline failures in September for “softening” growth in air traffic.

Growth across Europe’s airports was almost half the rate of the first six months of 2019 at 2.2% year on year in September and 2.6% in the third quarter.

ACI Europe declared it the “weakest EU market in six years”.

Director general Olivier Jankovec said: “Passenger traffic growth keeps softening and there is no recovery in sight for depressed freight traffic.

“While these figures account for worsening macro-economic and trading conditions, they also reflect the fact that four European airlines went bust in September.”

The headline failure was that of Thomas Cook. But Slovenian carrier Adria Airways, French airline Aigle Azur – based at Paris Orly – and XL Airways France also failed in September.

The airports most affected were Ljubljana, where traffic declined 10%, and Paris-Orly and Fuerteventura where passenger numbers fell 9%. But traffic also fell 8% at Glasgow, 6% at Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), 4% at Corfu and Newcastle, and about 3% at Tenerife South, Kos and Heraklion.

UK air traffic overall was almost 1% down year on year.

Jankovec said: “Europe’s airports see airlines limiting capacity and network development and focusing on protecting their yields.

“That trend is getting more acute with the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max, as well air traffic management limitations clearly not helping.”

Airline association Iata reported a 4.5% decline in the volume of air cargo in September, noting it was the eleventh consecutive month of decline.

However, Iata noted global growth in air passenger traffic of 3.8% year on year in September.

Iata director general Alexandre de Juniac said: “We expect the tough business environment for air cargo to continue. The US-China trade war continues to take its toll.”