October passenger growth at 2.3% as economic uncertainty keeps air freight on the sidelines

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Montréal, 02 December 2011Global passenger traffic at airports grew by over 2 percent, year over year, in October 2011. Both international and domestic passenger growth remain in positive territory, at 3.3 percent and 1.5 percent respectively, despite the observed risks in global markets.

Resilient growth rates in passenger traffic were observed in the Middle East (+6.1 percent) which leads all other regions. Abu Dhabi (AUH) continues to be among the high growth airports in the region at +17.2 percent. Latin America and the Caribbean also posted impressive figures at +5.9 percent. While international traffic remains strong for many airports, domestic markets in Brazil and Mexico are continued sources of growth for the region. Airports such as Belo Horizonte (CNF), Rio de Janeiro (GIG) and Mexico City (MEX) respectively experienced gains of +29.2, +20.1 and +19.6 percent. Strong demand was also observed in Asia-Pacific where growth was +4.4 percent. New Delhi (DEL) and Jakarta (CGK) have witnessed, year over year growth rates of +33.3 percent and +17.9 percent respectively in domestic traffic. Europe saw more moderate growth at +3 percent, which was fuelled primarily by international travel. Domestic travel for the region is flat although outliers like Istanbul (IST) continue to stand firm with domestic growth of +19.6 percent. North America saw generally flat growth in international (+0.8 percent) and domestic (-0.2 percent) passenger traffic although higher growth will likely be experienced during the November and December holiday season. With continued social and political unrest in North Africa, the region is experiencing a temporary shift in passenger traffic away from the region as a travel destination. Major Egyptian and Tunisian airports have witnessed double digit declines. Cairo (CAI) saw a decline of -25.9 percent. Tunis (TUN) experienced a decline of -12.3 percent, although some traffic was probably diverted to Enfidha (NBE), which has seen traffic rise by +205.7 percent.

Air freight has seen its sixth consecutive month of year over year decline. International and domestic traffic in air freight have declined by 4 percent. Global exporters in Asia experienced sharp declines in total freight with Hong Kong (HKG), Shanghai (PVG) and Incheon (ICN) contracting by -8.2, -9.8 and -8 percent respectively. The major North American freight airports all experienced declines in their year over year volume. Memphis (MEM) saw a decline of -1.5 percent while both Anchorage (ANC) and Louisville (SDF) declined by over -5 percent. The scenario is similar for Europe, where air freight has declined by -4.4 percent. Among the major airports in the region, declines were observed in Frankfurt (FRA; -9.5 percent), Amsterdam (AMS; -3.8 percent) and London (LHR; -7.2 percent). Despite the overall slowdown in global air freight, certain trading blocks in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East are less affected by the risks associated with sovereign debt in developed economies. Contrary to Africa’s decline in air passenger travel, air freight has posted the greatest gains compared to all other regions, although much of the region’s growth can be attributed to Johannesburg (JNB) at +8 percent. International freight in key Brazilian airports observed notable double-digit gains. São Paulo (GRU) and Campinas (VCP) saw gains of +13.7 and +10.7 percent respectively. The Middle East saw modest gains with overall growth reaching +2.3 percent.

ACI World’s Economics Director Rafael Echevarne commented, “Year to date growth for overall passenger traffic has shown resilience at +4.6 percent with international traffic up by over 6 percent. Notwithstanding, the looming risks in major currency markets and economies have not yet affected consumption patterns for air travel. However, traffic in air freight, as a leading indicator, is much more sensitive to pending risks in the business cycle. International trade in air freight has been placed on the back burner until business confidence is revived, particularly with respect to the economies of Europe, Asia and North America. With the remaining fears of a possible Euro break-up, we are likely to observe year over year declines in freight traffic over the months to come.”