Passenger confidence key to recovery at Vinci's airports

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LISBON (Reuters) - How quickly more than 40 airports run by French group Vinci (SGEF.PA) can recover from the coronavirus crisis depends on whether passengers feel safe enough to travel, the head of the company’s airports business Nicolas Notebaert said on Monday.

“It is just the start,” Notebaert, who is president of Vinci Airports, told reporters after taking the first post-lockdown flight from Nantes to Lisbon operated by budget airline Transavia. “The speed of recovery will depend on the confidence we create for our passengers.”

Vinci runs 45 airports in 12 countries, making it the second largest airport operator in the world, behind Spain's Aena AENA.MC.

“They (passengers) can come back to our airports, which are clean, safe and health measures are in place in order to welcome them,” Notebaert said.

Though passengers might slowly return, the outbreak is set to leave long-lasting scars on the aviation industry.

Last week, the International Air Transport Association said the coronavirus crisis will lead the airline industry into record annual losses of $84 billion as 2020 goes down as the “worst year in the history of aviation.”

Airline passenger traffic is expected to rise 55% in 2021 from a low level this year, while remaining 29% below its 2019 level, IATA said.

In April, Vinci said its revenues would fall sharply in the months ahead, after sales remained stable year-on-year in the first quarter, boosted by the acquisition of a majority stake in Gatwick airport.

Reporting by Catarina Demony and Sergio Goncalves. Editing by Jane Merriman