INTERNATIONAL. Worldwide airport passenger numbers increased +6.5% in 2016 to almost 7.7 billion, according to Airports Council International (ACI), which predicts traffic will continue to rise rapidly in the short-term to surpass the eight billion mark this year (based on a CAGR of 6.5%).
Despite the geopolitical risks that have persisted in some areas, international travel and tourism remains “irrepressible” despite modest global GDP levels, according to the latest edition of ACI’s World Airport Traffic Report, which provides traffic data and analyses of over 2,400 airports in 175 countries worldwide.
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Besides Africa, which posted a -0.4% decline overall due to the region’s -1.7% drop in international passengers, all regions registered an increase in traffic in 2016.
Asia Pacific was by far the strongest region for passenger growth with 2.73 billion travellers in 2016; a +10.6% increase.
On a year to date basis, passenger traffic has already jumped +6.6% for the first half of 2017 and is on track to exceed eight billion in 2017.
ACI’s outlook for 2017-2018 sees domestic traffic continuing to climb steadily over the next two years—especially in Asia Pacific, Europe and North America—achieving a global CAGR of 5.3%. Despite the recent positive growth in domestic passenger traffic, growth will come primarily from international traffic, based on a two-year CAGR of 8.4%.
However, ACI forewarned the industry must be mindful of several impediments that could slow down the rise in demand, such as geopolitical unrest, terrorism and threats to security in certain parts of the world.
Physical capacity considerations and potential bottlenecks in air transport infrastructure also pose challenges, while protectionist policies that hinder further economic integration and air transport liberalisation could have an adverse effect on the air transport industry.
“In this new era of geopolitical strife and terror, coupled with the wave of protectionist rhetoric that has swept many major economies, clear downside risks have revealed themselves as we end 2017 and approach 2018. Even with the prevailing strength in consumer confidence across major economies and relatively sound economic fundamentals as our backdrop, cautious optimism should be the prevailing sentiment in our industry,” said ACI World Director General Angela Gittens.
World’s busiest airports
Atlanta was once again the busiest airport worldwide with 104 million passengers in 2016. Traffic was up +5% over 2015 at Beijing with 94 million passengers, maintaining second in the world ranking. Third ranked airport, Dubai, also stayed in the same position as 2015 with 84 million passengers despite an impressive +7.2% growth throughout the year.
For international traffic numbers, Dubai remained in top position and further widened its lead ahead of London Heathrow throughout 2016. International passenger traffic at Dubai increased +7.3% over 2015, closing 2016 with 83.1 million travellers. Heathrow saw 71 million international passengers use the airport; a +1.7% increase vs. 2015.
Chinese airports are the largest contributors to global air traffic growth, according to ACI. They accounted for a 21.6% share of the global passenger traffic increase from 2015 to 2016, equal to 101 million travellers.
Shanghai remained one of the fastest growing airports among the world’s top 20 airports for passenger traffic, moving from thirteenth to ninth place and growing +9.8%. Los Angeles also had a high growth rate of +8%, moving from seventh to fourth rank in terms of total passenger traffic in 2016.
- Asia Pacific (2.73 billion, +10.6% vs. 2015)
- Europe (2.04 billion, +5.2% vs. 2015)
- North America (1.79 billion, +3.8% vs. 2015)
- Latin America and Caribbean (588 million, +1.2% vs. 2015)
- Middle East (369 million, +9.4% vs. 2015)
- Africa (182 million, -0.4% vs. 2015)