New services to Palma from the United States took off this year. | Majorca Daily Bulletin reporter

Spanish airport operator Aena said today it expects a return to normal from pre-pandemic levels in October although profitability lagged behind as revenues rose at a slower pace than passenger traffic and costs jumped on energy prices.

The company estimated that passenger traffic in Spain has returned to the 2019 level in October and it said it sees the positive trend continuing as airlines offer 5.3% more seats this winter than in 2019-2020.

Aena now expects overall traffic in 2022 will be higher than its prior forecast of 85% of 2019 traffic volume.

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Even though 60% more passengers went through its airports in the third quarter, Aena's overall revenues rose a modest 33%, the company said. The company's commercial revenues, its share of business made from airport shops fell 13% due to COVID-19 regulations to protect shop owners.

As a result third-quarter net profit of 335 million euros ($335.80 million) was 11% lower than expected, RBC's analyst Stephanie D'Ath said. Shares traded 0.1% lower in late morning.

Additionally Aena's operating expenses jumped in the first nine months from the same period a year ago, mainly driven by its electricity bills, which rose three-fold.

Britain's biggest airport, Heathrow, warned earlier it was unlikely to return to pre-pandemic demand for several years, except at peak times, due the global economic crisis that follows the impact of COVID-19.