Just ahead of this year's World Routes, Airports Council International (ACI) released the latest edition of the World Airport Traffic Report. With comprehensive data coverage for almost 2,000 airports in 160 countries worldwide, ACI's flagship publication remains the authoritative source and industry reference for the latest airport traffic data, rankings and trends on air transport demand.
"With many major economies remaining in a fragile state, 2013 can best be characterised as a year of unstable recovery for the global economy," said Angela Gittens, director general of ACI World. "Despite this challenging operating climate, worldwide traffic surpassed the 6 billion passenger mark in 2013. This represents an enormous feat for the airport industry as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of commercial aviation in 2014."
"The opportunities that lay ahead for aviation are numerous, particularly in emerging markets. Indeed, the huge demographic bases in many of these economies, coupled with rising per-capita income, will mean continued growth at airports in these markets. The growth in air transport demand and the services that airports provide will have a beneficial multiplier effect within local economies where airports operate, as well as across industries and the global economy," added Gittens.
So what does the data show? The headline figure was that worldwide airport passenger numbers increased by 4.6 per cent in 2013 to 6.3 billion, registering increases in all six regions. Atlanta (ATL) remains the busiest airport on the globe with 94.4 million passengers in 2013. Although traffic at the airport was down 1.1 per cent over 2012, the second ranked Beijing (PEK), with 83.7 million passengers, experienced more subdued growth of 2.2 per cent in 2013 as compared to the double-digit growth it achieved in previous years.
The report demonstrates that airport traffic in emerging markets and developing economies grew faster (8.7 per cent) than in advanced countries (1.8 per cent) in 2013, with emerging markets reaching a 42 per cent share of global passenger traffic. When you at the statistics by region, the highest number of passengers during 2013 went through airports in the Asia-Pacific region (2.06 billion, up 8.7 per cent over 2012), followed by Europe (1.73 billion, up 3.2 per cent over 2012), North America (1.57 billion, up 1.1 per cent over 2012), Latin America-Caribbean (501 million, up 5.5 per cent over 2012), the Middle East (278 million, up 7 per cent over 2012) and Africa (164 million, up 0.5% over 2012).
With almost 1.3 billion passengers, BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), which represent 20 per cent of global passenger traffic, achieved strong growth of 8.6 per cent in passenger traffic. MINT countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) achieved similar traffic growth, with an 8.8 per cent increase for passenger traffic in 2013.
One of the fastest-growing airports among the world's busiest is Dubai International (DXB), which moved from 10th to 7th position in 2013 as a result of its passenger traffic growing more than 15 per cent during the year. Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST, which ranks 18th) and Kuala Lumpur (KUL, which ranks 20th) are two other airports that experienced double-digit passenger growth rates in 2013, with increases of 13.7 per cent and 19.1 per cent, respectively.
Interestingly, the data shows the world's top 30 airport cities handle more than one-third of global passenger traffic. London remains the world's largest airport system with almost 140 million passengers handled at six airports. New York maintains the second position with 112 million passengers at three airports. Tokyo is the third city market with 105 million passengers.
The world's busiest international airports (international passenger traffic) were London, United Kingdom – LHR (67.3 million, up 3.2 per cent over 2012), Dubai, United Arab Emirates – DXB (65.9 million, up 15.3 per cent over 2012) and Hong Kong, China – HKG (59.3 million, up 6.5 per cent over 2012), while the world's busiest domestic airports (domestic passenger traffic) were Atlanta GA, USA – ATL (84.2 million, down 1.7 per cent over 2012), Beijing, China (People's Rep. of China) – PEK (67.5 million, up 1.6 per cent over 2012) and Tokyo, Japan – HND (60.9 million, up 3.5 per cent over 2012).
But, how will 2014 compare with last year's results? Well, preliminary airport traffic results for the first half of 2014 show encouraging signs of a steady recovery in the global passenger and cargo markets. "The overall passenger growth rate in the first six months of 2014 was 4.8 per cent," confirmed Dr. Rafael Echevarne, director of economics and programme development, ACI World, a result which is above the equivalent year-over-year figure from 2013.
"However," he warned, "a number of developments indicate that the airport industry still faces growth challenges." Indeed, there remains a lingering uncertainty surrounding demand for air transport worldwide. This is clearly influenced by social and political volatility in areas of the world such as Eastern Europe, the Middle East and West Africa.
"Whilst this volatility obviously has a direct negative impact on traffic at airports located in the affected areas, the potential for a contagious effect on traffic at airports in other parts of the world is real," added Echevarne.