A new report by the Airports Council International (ACI Europe) has revealed that regional airports have continued to perform positively since the start of the year, recovering almost 93% of their pre-pandemic passenger volumes compared to 87% for hubs and other larger airports.The same source said that this growth reflects traffic dynamics driven by leisure and VFR (Visiting Friends & Relatives) demand, also driven by the expansion of ultra-low-cost carriers and mainly relying on intra-European markets such as North Africa and Transatlantic, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.In this regard, the General-Director of ACI Europe, Olivier Jankovec, said that the summer season this year looks very positive for regional airports in general, as they are seeing airline seat capacity slightly above pre-pandemic levels.“Passenger demand keeps defying inflationary pressures, in particular record increases in airfares. At the same time, disruption risks across the aviation ecosystem have receded. This is the result of earlier planning, massive recruitment and improved wages – although air traffic management (ATM) capacity and social unrest remain a significant concern in some countries,” Jankovec also noted.However, he pointed out that traffic recovery has come with more volatility and more inequality due to increased airport competition on a pan-European level, as the market is shifting towards less powerful airlines.Director Jankovec also revealed that during the last three years and today, the user fees set by the regional airports have been continuously reduced. In real terms, adjusted with inflation they are 13.4% lower compared to the levels of 2019. Meanwhile, there has been an increase in airline fees by +26% so far this year.As ACI Europe explains, according to the Airport Carbon Accreditation, a total of 207 regional airports across Europe are now certified for carbon management and reduction compared to 146 a year ago.The same authority also added that all regional airports are particularly vulnerable to the impact of FIT FOR 55 (refers to the EU’s target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030), taking into account that all relevant measures apply fully to the trans-European routes on which they rely.In addition, the research provided by Oxera7 shows that passenger demand at regional airports will drop by close to 20 per cent, inevitably compromising the connectivity they provide to their communities.According to ACI Europe Regional Airport Forum Chairman and Innsbruck Airport CEO Marco Pernetta, regional airports now account for 35% of total direct air connectivity in Europe, up from 29% ten years ago.At the same time, he emphasized that a European strategy regarding sustainable regional air connectivity is needed, which ensures that regional aviation quickly becomes the test bed for the decarbonisation of aviation.