Global airport passenger traffic grew 3.9% in 2013, matching the growth rate reported by Airports Council International (ACI) at the end of 2012. Worldwide air freight traffic grew 1% in 2013, a modest improvement from the 0.2% drop in freight traffic reported by ACI for 2012.
However, in December global airport passenger traffic surged 6.4% year-over-year, rising 3.3 points from November. Global air freight traffic continued its fourth-quarter growth with volumes increasing 3.2% year-over-year during the month, a 0.2 point slip from November.
While noting that December’s passenger traffic performance was the highest reported monthly growth in the past year, “this growth in air travel occurs in a year that was riddled with economic challenges,” ACI said. “Despite a global economy that remained sluggish for most of 2013, air freight markets still inched up … with an overall rise in business confidence coupled with recent improvements in international trade, the recent rise in air freight volumes signals a potential revival.”
“As international traffic remained relatively strong, domestic travel was curtailed mainly because of economic challenges in European and North American markets. Both domestic freight and domestic passenger traffic were sluggish in these markets,” ACI economics and program development director Rafael Echevarne said. “Nevertheless, recovery and higher GDP growth is anticipated in both regions and this will have a positive impact on air transport demand going forward into 2014.”
For the full-year 2013, airports in the Middle East region had the greatest passenger traffic growth, increasing 10.1% year-over-year, followed by Asia-Pacific region airports (up 7.2%) and Latin America-Caribbean airports (up 4.8%). Traffic at Europe region airports was up 2.6% for the year; North America region airports saw 1.3% growth; Africa region airports’ passenger traffic declined 0.6%.
In December, Middle East region airports passenger traffic grew 10.5% year-over year; Dubai International Airport passenger traffic grew 15.2% year-over-year during the month, and Abu Dhabi International Airport saw 12.4% passenger traffic growth. Latin America-Caribbean region airports also had a particularly strong December, with overall passenger growth of 10.1%, year-over-year. São Paulo’s Guarulhos Airport had 19.3% year-over-year passenger growth in December; passenger traffic at São Paulo’s Congonhas Airport grew 12.8% for the month.
Overall, air freight traffic in 2013 improved most significantly at airports in the Middle East region, where volumes grew 5.4% year-over-year. Air freight volumes at Abu Dhabi International Airport were up 24.4% for the year; air freight at Dubai International Airport grew 7.4% for the year. Elsewhere, air cargo growth was tepid in 2013, growing 0.9% in the Asia-Pacific region and 0.8% in the European region (air freight volumes at Frankfurt Airport were up 1.5% for the year; Schiphol Amsterdam Airport was up 3.2%; Paris Charles de Gaulle declined 4% for the year). Air freight volumes budged just 0.5% in North America (Memphis International Airport, hub of FedEx, was up 3% for the year; Louisville International Airport, hub of UPS, was up 2.5%). Air freight volumes fell in the Latin America-Caribbean region (down 0.2%) and in the Africa region (down 2.7%). O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, Africa’s leading air freight hub, had a 5.4% drop in freight volume for the year.
Yet December’s air freight figures show a modest resurgence, with a worldwide regional growth rate of 3.2% year-over-year, a 0.2 point slip from November. Domestic freight markets buoyed the month, with 4.4% year-over-year growth, up 5.4 points from November. Cargo traffic at Middle East region airports continued to lead the overall count, with 5.6% growth for the month. European airports saw a big boost (7.5%) in December domestic freight traffic, up 8.2 points from November.