ACI Report Reflects Air Transport’s Resiliency

 - August 8, 2011, 9:00 AM
Atlanta’s Hartsfield International remained the world’s busiest airport last year, as more than 89 million passengers passed through its gates. (Photo: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport)

A new report about global air traffic, released last week by Montreal-based Airports Council International (ACI), shows a strong rebound in 2010 after a two-year industry slump, as passenger traffic rose last year by 6.6 percent and topped the 5 billion mark for the first time. The cargo business also recorded record volumes, growing by 15.3 percent, to 91 million metric tons, according to the report.

“Once again, our industry has shown its resiliency in recovering from a downturn and resuming its historical trajectory of impressive growth,” said ACI World director general Angela Gittens.

The 6.6-percent growth in passenger traffic included increases registered in all six regions of the world covered by ACI’s study. Latin America and the Caribbean led the growth trend, registering a 13.2-percent increase, followed by the Middle East at 12 percent, Asia-Pacific at 11.3 percent, Africa at 9.5 percent, Europe at 4.3 percent and North America at 2.5 percent.

The sampling of 1,383 airports located in 157 countries showed that domestic traffic increased by 5.8 percent, while international traffic jumped by 7.7 percent. Meanwhile, total aircraft movements rose by 1.1 percent, to 74.46 million, led again by the Middle East (7.7 percent) and Latin America and the Caribbean (7 percent). Despite registering increases in overall traffic, North America and Europe both saw declining movements, by 1.4 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.

“Traffic growth in emerging markets led the way,” said Gittens, who identified Brazil as Latin America’s key driver and liberalized bilateral agreements and a large increase in fleet capacity, particularly in the UAE and Qatar, as the Middle East’s primary stimulants. Although North America and Europe remain the top two markets, respectively, in terms of passenger volume, “Asia Pacific is rapidly closing the gap,” said Gittens.

Preliminary ACI statistics for the first six months of this year suggest more of the same, said the report, reflecting a 6-percent rise in total passenger numbers for the period. Commenting on the prospects for the rest of the year, ACI World’s director of economics, Andreas Schimm, predicted another good year, but not without a note of caution.

“Strong global economic growth in the latter half of 2011 should propel our sector to another good year,” he said. “But even against the backdrop of growth, there is considerable uncertainty about oil prices, concern over sovereign debt, volatility in exchange rates, and in the U.S., slowing growth and persistent unemployment.”