Implications of the financial crisis could be worse than fuel – ACI

Airports Council International (ACI) Director Economics, Andreas Schimm has warned that while the effect of high oil prices may begin to fade as we head into Winter, the implication of the international crisis in the financial markets for air traffic demand "could be worse”. The warning comes as the world’s airports reported “resilient” international passenger traffic (with the exception of the Asia Pacific region) in the peak Summer month of Aug-08, but poor domestic throughput.

ACI worldwide airports passenger numbers growth (% change year-on-year): Sep-07 to Aug-08

Source: Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation & ACI

International passenger numbers in the Asia Pacific region slumped 6.2%, due to the Olympics-related slowdown in China, as well as slowing economies in China, TaiwanJapan and Korea.

ACI Asia Pacific airports passenger numbers growth (% change year-on-year): Sep-07 to Aug-08

Source: Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation & ACI

Other regions reported solid international traffic increases, led by Africa (+9%), Latin America-Caribbean (+9%) and the Middle East (+8.3%), while Europe (+1%) and North America (+2%) grew moderately. All regions are however showing definite signs of traffic weakness recently.

ACI worldwide airport traffic growth by region (% change year-on-year): Rolling 12 months to Aug-08, Year-to-date (Jan-08 to Aug-08) and Aug-08

Source: Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation & ACI

ACI noted that international traffic growth has slowed markedly in the Middle East where the dominant international airport, Dubai, only saw an increase of +2.8% in Aug-08, while Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Sharjah and Beirut continued to experience double-digit expansion.

Domestic traffic with the exception of Latin America-Caribbean (+4%) has fallen considerably across the world leading to a decrease of total domestic traffic of -4%. India has been affected hardest with Delhi down -16% and Mumbai -18%. German, UK and Spanish airports suffered the greatest domestic reductions in Europe, while North America declined by 5%.

ACI stated demand for domestic travel has proven “very elastic and price sensitive”, leading to significant declines in the wake of high oil prices during Summer.

International freight shrunk by 2.6% led by North America (-8%) and the Asia Pacific (-4.3%). Overall freight traffic was down a worrying 8% in Aug-08, reflecting the slowing world economy. If ACI's prediction is correct, the upcoming monthly airport figures could be much worse.

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