“Clear” signs of renewed passenger traffic demand, with traffic surge in Dec-2009: ACI


Global airport passenger traffic in Dec-2009 showed "clear signs” of renewed passenger traffic demand at many airports worldwide, according to Airports Council International (ACI), with a “surge” in both passenger and freight traffic worldwide (albeit off a low base in 2008).

ACI World Director of Economics, Andreas Schimm commented, “looking at full year 2009, global traffic results were much better than expected earlier in the year, finishing at just 2.6% below 2008”. He added that “fears that third quarter traffic would decline substantially did not materialise”, commenting that the “stabilisation seen provided a platform for remarkable fourth quarter growth”. 

Traffic in Dec-2009 has, however, come off a deeply negative base in Dec-2008, whereas monthly reports in 1H2009 came off a buoyant 2008 base.

ACI total passenger number growth: Dec-2008 to Dec-2009

Passenger growth across the board in Dec-2009 

According to ACI, passenger traffic continued the improvement trend in Dec-2009, with an increase of 5.3% in total global traffic.

Both international passenger traffic (up by 5.6% for the second consecutive month of year-on-year growth) and domestic traffic (up by 5.2% for six consecutive months of positive growth) were boosted by strong performance across Asia Pacific (+15.7 % international; +14% domestic).

ACI added that global figures were boosted by strong domestic traffic in China, India and Brazil, where volumes surged in 2H2009. International traffic grew faster than domestic traffic at most airports in China, while traffic in India, both domestic and international, surged in Dec-2009 (Delhi +32%, Bangalore +37%, and Mumbai +29%, with Mumbai domestic traffic increasing by 39%). ACI added that traffic growth is also on the mend in Russia driven by domestic traffic growth at the Moscow airports ranging from 21-40%. 

Meanwhile, all regions experienced year-on-year passenger increases in the month, except for North America (with a 0.6% reduction in total passengers, a 0.4% reduction in domestic passengers and a 0.2% reduction in international passengers).

ACI total passenger number growth by region: Dec-2009 and FY2009

The growing divide: Europe/North America shrink; Asia Pac/Latin America and Middle East expansion

In the full year, ACI commented that traffic results highlight a split between the two largest aviation markets (North America and Europe), each of which reported traffic reductions of more than 5%, and the continued expansion of Asia Pacific, Latin America-Caribbean and Middle East markets.

Top performance results in the international category were seen at Dubai (+9.6%), Kuala Lumpur (+8.8%) and Istanbul (+7.3%), the only airports with more than 10 million passengers p/a to register growth in 2009.

Airports in Africa suffered a moderate 3.5% setback for the year, mainly caused by declines in domestic traffic whereas international shrank only marginally.

“Remarkably strong” freight traffic in pre-Christmas period

According to ACI, freight results for Nov-2009 and Dec-2009 were “remarkably strong...balancing the severe losses sustained in the first quarter 2009 and narrowing the gap with performance in 2008". The results illustrate mounting confidence in the global economic recovery and significant pent-up demand, according to ACI.

During the month, ACI reported double-digit freight growth across the board, with a 27.9% increase in international freight, outpacing the 15.3% growth in domestic freight. Total freight traffic increased 23.3% year-on-year. 

ACI total cargo volume growth: Dec-2008 to Dec-2009

Positive freight growth developments were seen in all regions, except for domestic Latin America-Caribbean domestic traffic (which was down 6.4% in the domestic market), with double-digit growth in every region except domestic Europe (+6.3%) and total Latin America freight (+8.9%).

For the full year, freight traffic fell below the 2008 performance (-8% worldwide; - 2.8% domestic; -10.3% international), with ACI commenting that it remains “too early to consider this performance as a future indicator of a sustainable economic recovery as this rebound is of a more technical than fundamental nature”.

ACI total freight growth by region: Dec-2009 and FY2009

Air travel lagging upturn in airfreight: IATA

Like ACI, IATA reported a sharp increase in demand for air transport at the end of 2009, as the upturn in economic growth – particularly in Asia – gathered pace (the year-on-year comparisons are however disported by the collapse in demand at the end of 2008). IATA added that freight volumes rose at a “robust” pace in 4Q2009, compared to 3Q2009 levels, with air travel also rising, but lagging behind the upturn in airfreight.

International passenger and freight tonne-kilometers: Jul-2005 to Dec-2009

However, IATA noted that while there has been strong upturn in air travel and airfreight demand at the end of 2009, capacity cuts remain in place, indicating the “smaller fluctuations in airline capacity compared with the volatility in demand”. IATA added that air freight capacity had started to rise, but at a much slower pace than the surge in demand.

Capacity growth on international markets: Jul-2005 to Dec-2009

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