Preliminary World Airport Traffic 2011

Posted: 27 March 2012 | Airports Council International (ACI) | No comments yet

ACI preliminary traffic results indicate that global passenger traffic grew at a rate of 4.9 percent while cargo was almost flat at -0.1%, as compared to 2010…

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ACI preliminary traffic results, based on reports from over 900 airports worldwide, indicate that global passenger traffic grew at a rate of 4.9 percent while cargo was almost flat at -0.1%, as compared to 2010. Aircraft movements showed moderate growth at 2 percent.

ACI World Director General Angela Gittens commented, “2011 could best be described as a year of global uncertainty. Cargo traffic slowed for most of the year as business confidence deteriorated in light of the looming Eurozone debt crisis. International passenger traffic remained relatively unaffected by economies in Europe and North America teetering towards recession. Despite economic instability and political unrest in many regions of the world, overall, airports continued to experience sustained global passenger growth as compared to 2010.”

Passenger Traffic

Monthly passenger growth worldwide in 2011 was relatively stable with rates ranging from 3 to 6 percent with the exception of April. The month of April experienced a growth rate of 10.8 percent. The sudden spike in the growth trend was due to the sharp decline in passenger traffic for major airports affected by the volcanic ash cloud in April 2010, which forced the closure of European airspace.

With the combined effects of economic woes from pending austerity programs and overall domestic capacity constraints in air transport, only modest growth in passenger traffic was observed in North America at 1.8 percent. In contrast, more robust growth was experienced in Latin America (+8.6 percent), the Middle East (+8.4 percent) and Asia-pacific (+5.7 percent). The key contributors to the global rise in passenger traffic can be attributed to airports in emerging markets. With the rise in per capita income in many of these markets, the demand for air travel has risen correspondingly. Coupled with the fact that many of these regions are home to some of the most populous countries on the globe have helped fortify this phenomenon. In Asia-Pacific New Delhi (DEL), Jakarta (CGK) and Bangkok (BKK) achieved impressive double digit growth of 21.7, 19.2 and 12 percent respectively. Similarly on the other side of the globe, passenger traffic in Rio de Janeiro (GIG) grew by 20.5 percent, compared to 2010.

Despite the economic downturn in the Eurozone, Europe still continues to be the global epicenter for air travel. Europe experienced overall growth of 7.1 percent in passenger traffic. In particular, strong growth was observed in Barcelona (BCN) at 17.8 percent, as well as in the burgeoning markets of Moscow (DME; SVO) and Istanbul (IST), which experienced growth in passenger traffic of 16 percent, compared to 2010.

Air transport in Northern Africa felt the brunt of political unrest, which translated into Africa’s overall continental decline in growth rates for 2011. The year-over-year decline for the region was -5.9 percent.

Cargo Traffic

Growth fell flat for cargo traffic in 2011. As a leading indicator, air freight is more sensitive to pending risks in the business cycle. International trade in air freight was placed on the back burner, particularly with respect to the economies of Asia and North America. The regions experienced declines of -1.5 and -0.6 percent respectively. Remarkably, Europe still posted overall gains in global cargo traffic at 1.2 percent irrespective of the overarching structural problems and the debt crises. Despite the overall stagnation of air freight in some parts of the world, key trading blocks in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East posted positive gains for 2011.

Aircraft movements increased the most in Latin America-Caribbean (+5.5%), Asia-Pacific (+5.2%), Europe (+3.4%), Middle East (+2.9%) while movements declined in North America (-0.7%) and Africa (-1%).

Airport Rankings

Atlanta (+3.4%) continues to be the world’s busiest airport, while Beijing (+4.7%) maintains second rank. London Heathrow (+5.4%) returns to third while Chicago O’Hare (-0.5%) takes fourth rank. Other than Chicago, the three other airports in the top 30 that did not grow in 2011 include Tokyo (-2.9%), Madrid (-0.4%) and Houston (-0.8%). See tables 1, 2, 3


  • Total Passengers:+4.9%
  • Total International Passengers:+6.4%
  • Total Cargo (includes mail):-0.1%
  • Total International Freight:-0.1%
  • Total Aircraft Movements:+2.0%

* Please note that all figures and percentages are based on summed monthly data submissions by 906 airports. The final confirmed report will be published in July 2012 and will include 1000+ airports; therefore figures are subject to variation.

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