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Airport passenger traffic strong but freight downturn a cause for concern: ACI

7-Sep-2011
ACI International Director General, Angela Gittens
ACI International Director General, Angela Gittens

The world’s airports reported continued strong passenger traffic gains in Jul-2011. ACI Director General Angela Gittens said it was "encouraging to see passenger growth continue at a rapid clip, as it has for the past year”. And she remains cautiously optimistic about the outlook for the remainder of 2011, despite a downturn in the freight market and economic concerns in Europe and North America. Worldwide passenger traffic rose 5.0% year-on-year in Jul-2011, following growth of 4.8% in Jun-2011. Growth was propelled by strong international demand across all regions, with the exception of Africa, which felt the impact of civil unrest in several major North African markets.

ACI World total passenger trends: year-on-year, year-to-date and year-end comparison from Jul-2010 to Jul-2011

International traffic increased 6.7% year-on-year in Jul-2011, while domestic traffic was up just 3.5% in Jul-2011, according to ACI.

ACI World passenger trends: international, domestic and total traffic growth (%, year-on-year)

Latin America/Caribbean registered the fastest growth rate at 10% in Jul-2011, driven once again by strong domestic demand in Brazil. The Middle East (+7.7%) and Europe (6.7%) showed the next highest rates of growth.

ACI World regional passenger trends: month-on-month comparison with the same month of the previous year

ACI World regional international passenger trends: month-on-month comparison with the same month of the previous year

Europe: The big get bigger

ACI-EUROPE, in a separate release, stated passenger traffic for its members increased 6.9% year-on-year in Jul-2011. Freight traffic increased by just 0.3% and aircraft movements rose 2.8%.

Among Europe’s largest airports handling more than 25 million annual passengers ('Group 1'), there was a 6.8% increase in passengers in the month. Growth was also seen at the region’s smaller airports: 'Group 2' airports (airports handling between 10 and 25 million passengers) witnessed growth of 7.7%. 'Group 3' airports (5 to 10 million passengers) expanded by 6.8% while 'Group 4' (<5 million annual passengers) was weaker at 5.5%. The same comparison of Jul-2011 with Jul-2009 levels shows average increases of +11.5%, +16.9%, +17.0% and +15.0%, respectively, across the four airport groups.

Among the Group 1 airports, Barcelona continued to witness strong growth, while Istanbul Ataturk also reported double-digit expansion. 

ACI Europe example of airports that experienced the highest increase in passenger traffic per group in Jul-2011

According to CAPA Airport Rankings Tool, Barcelona was the world's 29th largest airport in terms of system capacity (ASKs) in the week commencing 05-Sep-2011. Istanbul Ataturk ranked 21st, with Amsterdam (16th) and Munich (22nd) also among the world's Top 30 airports. Europe's largest airport was London Heathrow (ranked fourth on a world wide basis), followed by Paris CDG (sixth), Frankfurt (seventh), Madrid Barajas (12th) and Rome Fiumicino (19th).

Downturn in the freight market amid economic concerns

As echoed by IATA this month, ACI World said the downturn in the freight market is cause for concern.

See related article: Airline profitability falls by 60% in 2Q2011, as weak consumer confidence hits the sector

Overall freight volume fell 5.6% in Jul-2011, according to ACI, for the third consecutive month of year-on-year declines. The latest fall was more severe than in preceding months.

ACI World total freight trends: year-on-year, year-to-date and year-end comparison from Jul-2010 to Jul-2011

ACI World freight trends: international, domestic and total traffic growth (%, year-on-year)

Only the Latin America/Caribbean (+ 3.3%) and Europe (+0.4%) reported freight growth rates in the month, with North America showing the largest decline, of 12.5%, led by a near 16% slump in domestic freight volumes. 

ACI World regional total freight trends: month-on-month comparison with the same month of the previous year

ACI World regional international freight trends: month-on-month comparison with the same month of the previous year

Outlook: Freight trajectory will be closely watched

Commenting on the link between the freight weakness and economic jitters in the market, Ms Gittens said: “In July, market anxiety over sovereign debt in Europe and the US, and the real possibility of a ‘double dip’ recession eroded business confidence, and that often translates into companies drawing down inventories rather than ordering new shipments by air. We will be watching freight developments carefully, as very often declines in freight volumes foreshadow economic problems on the horizon”.

APPENDIX: ACI WORLD traffic results for Jun-2011

ACI worldwide airport traffic results for Jul-2011

Jul-2011 ACI passenger traffic summary

Jul-2011 ACI freight traffic summary


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