Fitch Ratings has reduced its EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) airport traffic assumptions due to continuing pandemic outbreaks, including the emergence of new virus variants, and uncoordinated travel policies that weigh heavily on international travel. Fitch in its report issued on Saturday said, “We do not expect airport traffic in the region to materially diverge from EMEA airlines’ expectations. However, there is still limited visibility over the recovery path, especially for airports exposed to business and international long-haul traffic, where we expect a slower recovery.” The recovery in year-to-date EMEA airport traffic has been slower than originally anticipated and lags behind those in North America and Asia, as domestic air travel in European countries typically forms a smaller share of the region’s market compared to these larger regions. There continues to be outbreaks of coronavirus and new, more infectious variants are emerging, despite increasing vaccination rates, meaning that travel restrictions remain in place or are being reintroduced. In 2021 and 2022, we expect domestic and short-haul trips, as well as leisure travel (including visiting family and friends), to recover faster than long-haul international or business travel. Furthermore, there is a heightened long-term uncertainty over potential structural sector impairments. These include a potential permanent loss of some parts of business travel, especially from those large corporations that are willing to adopt more ESG-friendly policies, for travel that could be replaced by technology solutions, as during the pandemic, according to Fitch. Additionally, government and regulatory strategies to reduce aviation emissions, particularly in Europe, have accelerated during the pandemic and could reduce the propensity to fly and influence modal shifts away from air travel, said Fitch. Pressures vary across EMEA rated airports and depend on location and the mix of traffic. Airports that are more dependent on long-haul or connecting traffic, such as Heathrow and Aeroports de Paris, are likely to experience slower recoveries compared to airports with greater domestic, short-haul and origin and destination traffic. Airports with higher exposure to low-cost airlines with predominantly short-haul routes, such as Stansted, could recover a substantial portion of their traffic more quickly. The additional debt that most EMEA airports raised during the pandemic to finance operations is going to weigh on their financial flexibility. However, many issuers have demonstrated considerable adaptability, offsetting some operational pressure on their credit profiles.