August passenger traffic expands by 3%, driven by international travel

Posted: 6 October 2011 | Airports Council International (ACI) | No comments yet

In August 2011 2.9% more passengers passed through airports worldwide compared to a year earlier…

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In August 2011 2.9% more passengers passed through airports worldwide compared to a year earlier. International traffic grew by 4.3%, whereas domestic passengers increased moderately at 1.7%.

Several factors accounted for the somewhat slower growth when comparing with preceding months. Africa continues to represent a significant drag on international passenger numbers as confidence in North Africa as a safe tourist destination, especially in Tunisia and Egypt, has not been restored yet. The region declined by 15% while the more significant international passenger segment dropped by over 20%

In Asia Pacific, growth was moderate at Chinese airports. Beijing stagnated (+0.6%) while the two Shanghai airports lost between 5 and 6%. The latter decline is a result of very steep increases in 2010 due to the World Expo in Shanghai. Japan is recovering slowly as decreases are mainly in the single digits with the exception of Narita where a 12.3% decline still shows a lack of international demand to Japan. Traffic in the region was lifted by demand to and from Thailand, South Korea, India and Singapore.

Only a very few airports in Europe had to cope with traffic declines. It is striking that many airports in Germany reported falling traffic which must be attributed to the introduction of an aviation tax at the beginning of the year. As a result, carriers reduced their capacity and passengers sought other modes of travel or airports as a departure point outside Germany. Traffic increases in Spain, Italy, Scandinavia and Turkey supported positive results in Europe in August.

North America remains a mixed picture supported by a solid expansion of international traffic by 4%. Network reshuffling and capacity management dominate the market. Memphis suffered the sharpest decline (-16.7%) as Delta Airlines drastically cut capacity at the airport. For the same reason Cincinnati continues to lose traffic at -9%.

Freight growth remained in negative territory for the fourth consecutive month. Figures still need to be viewed in conjunction with the corresponding period when international traffic, in particular, grew by 21%. Therefore the figures should not be seen as the beginning of a slowdown yet. A slight uptick of domestic freight in August into positive growth area may point to a return to positive international freight growth in the coming months when corresponding period growth also decreased significantly. The on-going uncertainty over sovereign debt issues, health of the banking sector, a cooling economy in China and economic growth in general however does not provide a positive backdrop to the outlook for global air freight.

ACI World’s Economics Director Rafael Echevarne commented, “The world traveller continues to show resilience despite the signs of global economic uncertainty. With overall passenger growth increasing by +2.9% in August (and +4.8% for year-to-date), this is mainly driven by continued growth of international passenger traffic globally. Air freight, on the other hand, does not paint a particularly rosy picture for August. There is almost an across the board slowdown in global freight volume in the year-over-year growth figures (-2.2%). With business confidence eroding in an uncertain economic climate, this sentiment is partly reflected in the freight data. The dramatic deceleration in the evolution of freight traffic over the year puts into question whether we will end the year in positive territory.”

Worldwide Traffic Results - August 2011

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