Global passenger traffic continues along growth path with increase of over 5% in the first half of 2015; air freight volumes show signs of subdued growth
Montréal, 10 August 2015 – Global passenger traffic increased by 4.2% year over year for the month of June while international and domestic traffic posted growth rates of 5% and 3.6% respectively. Air freight volumes showed more modest growth for the month of June at 2.1% year over year. International freight experienced weakness as volumes inched up by only 0.9%, whereas domestic freight traffic increased by 4.8%.
Considering the economic uncertainty from the Greek debt crisis and the geopolitical risks stemming from ongoing events in Ukraine, the Middle East and West Africa, air travel has remained relatively resilient in the first half of 2015. Accumulated passenger traffic across the world’s major airports showed growth of 5.7% for the first half of 2015. The fears of a regional and global spillover effect from these events have been contained with minimal repercussions on air transport. From a regional perspective, there were no major weak spots with respect to the rise in passenger traffic for the period from January to June 2015. Growth is likely to be in the realm of 5% once again for 2015 as a whole.
Although the rate of growth in air freight markets has slowed compared to 2014, air freight has grown by 3.4% for the first half of 2015 as compared to the same period the previous year. Growth has become more subdued since global demand for foreign goods and commodities has weakened compared to 2014. Business confidence was in limbo for the first half of 2015 and this is reflected in a weakening of orders by air and the build-up of inventories. While the prospect of future global economic growth is cause for optimism, there are two forces at play which are pushing the pendulum in opposite directions. As key regional economies such as North America get back on course, a cyclical slowdown in emerging markets is dampening the potential for significant advances in the global air freight market. Thus, future growth prospects in the latter half of 2015 will remain limited.
Regional markets – Year-to-date statistics in perspective
African air transport demand continues along on the path to recovery with modest growth of 2.3% in passenger traffic for the first half of 2015. Growth prospects remain limited in the short term. Nigeria, the continent’s major oil producer and largest economy, is feeling the brunt of the drop in oil prices. Johannesburg (JNB), Africa’s busiest airport, ended the first half with 2.7% gains in passenger numbers. Cairo (CAI), North Africa’s busiest airport and gateway to popular tourist destinations, saw passenger traffic jump back by 7.8% in the first two quarters of 2015 as compared to the previous year.
Asia-Pacific airports reported overall growth in passenger traffic of 8.3% for the first half of the year. Despite the worries of a slowdown, both international and domestic traffic growth remain relatively strong with growth of 9.8% and 7.5% respectively. Beijing (PEK) grew by 6% in the first 6 months of 2015, which is higher than year-over-year growth rates in 2014. Shanghai (PVG), the second busiest Chinese airport, posted double-digit growth of over 18% over the same period. The number two ranked airport in Asia-Pacific and Japan’s busiest airport, Haneda (HND), grew by 4.8% from January to June 2015 as compared to the previous year.
Regardless of the economic uncertainties that persisted in the Euro area and the prospects of a Greek exit throughout 2015, the region continues to bounce back with passenger traffic rising by 4.6% on a year-to-date basis. Most of the major airports that were crippled by the earlier days of the Euro area crisis saw a revival in 2014. For instance, Madrid (MAD), Spain’s busiest airport which experienced a contraction in passenger numbers in 2013, recorded growth of 11.4% in the first half of this year. Istanbul (IST) continues to climb the rankings among the world’s busiest airports with growth of 6.4% on the year, although the growth is slowing with respect to previous years. London-Heathrow (LHR), the region’s busiest airport, posted gains of 1.3% in the first half.
Despite the ongoing weakness in the economies of Brazil and Argentina, the Latin American-Caribbean region has achieved growth of 5.6% for the first half of 2015. The increases in traffic are largely attributed to the burgeoning domestic markets of Mexico and Colombia. Both Mexico City (MEX) and Bogota (BOG) experienced double-digit gains in passenger traffic of 12.4% and 11.3% respectively up to June 2015. On the other hand, São Paulo (GRU), Brazil’s busiest airport, experienced no change with respect to year-over-year growth over the same period.
Middle Eastern airports continue to achieve the highest growth among all regions at 8.8% for the first half. Double-digit growth rates in year-over-year passenger traffic continue to be the norm for major hubs across the region. Doha (DOH) and Abu Dhabi (AUH), the region’s second and third ranked airports, grew by 14.4% and 17.3% respectively. Dubai (DXB), the region’s busiest airport and the world’s busiest airport for international passenger traffic, grew by 10.4% in the first half of 2015. The region’s airports continue to expand their capacity and capitalize on their strategic location for the transfer of passengers.
Passenger numbers in North America continue to report growth above trend. Considering the maturity of the North American aviation market, growth of 4.2% is coinciding with the ongoing resurgence of the United States economy. Chicago (ORD), the region’s second busiest airport, has seen its domestic traffic grow by over 10% in the first half of 2015. Atlanta (ATL), the world’s busiest airport, increased by 4.4% on a year-to-date basis in 2015. If the airport continues to grow at this rate for the rest of the year, it will reach the 100 million passenger mark by the end of the year.
The African air freight market grew by 7.4% in the first half of 2015. While results are mixed across the continent, JNB, a leading air freight hub, has bounced back after a bleak 2014 with respect to growth in volumes. Accumulated freight volumes from June to January 2015 grew by 11.7% as compared to the same period in the previous year. CAI, the continent’s busiest air cargo hub, and JNB occupy over 30% of the continent’s air freight traffic.
A weakening of international trade activity has enfeebled the Asia-Pacific air freight market in the first half of 2016. Overall growth in volumes has slowed to 3% on a year-to-date basis. The cross-border shipment of goods shows the weakest growth. International freight volumes, which make up the greatest proportion of freight traffic in the region, grew by only 2.7% for the first six months of 2015, whereas domestic freight traffic grew by 3.8%. The top global air freight hub, Hong Kong (HKG), had an increase of only 0.6% in traffic for the first half of 2015. PVG and Incheon (ICN), the region’s second and third busiest air freight hubs, had year-over-year increases of 5% and 1.5% respectively.
Despite the signs of rising business confidence, the shadow of uncertainty regarding the Greek debt crisis and its potential contagion effects has left European air freight volumes in a sluggish state in the first half of 2015. Volumes inched up by 0.5% during the period. The ongoing geopolitical concerns in Eastern Europe may also represent a potential obstacle on the horizon for the European air freight market. The region’s three major air freight hubs, Frankfurt (FRA), Paris (CDG) and Amsterdam (AMS), experienced declines of 2.3%, 4.7% and 2.1% respectively in the first half of 2015.
With weakness in the Brazilian and Argentinian economies, growth in freight volumes in Latin-America-Caribbean has remained weak. The region saw a modest rise in freight traffic of 1% year-over-year over the first two quarters of 2015. Growth patterns continue to be mixed for Latin America-Caribbean as a whole. While major Brazilian airports such as GRU and Campinas (VCP)—which occupy a large share of the region’s freight volumes—experienced a decline of 1.2% and 11.4% respectively in air freight volumes, other airports within the region have achieved significant advances. BOG, a Colombian airport and the region’s leading air freight hub, experienced a gain of 6% in air freight traffic in the first half of 2015. MEX saw a double-digit rise of 15.6% in freight volumes fuelled by a burgeoning international freight market.
With ongoing capacity expansions in the Middle East, airports and airlines have capitalized on the strategic locations of major freight hubs in the region both for long-haul and short-haul operations. The Middle East experienced the greatest increase in accumulated volumes as compared to other regions at 8.6% year over year from January to June 2015. DXB, the region’s largest freight hub, grew by 2.8% over the same period. While DXB occupies a large share of air freight traffic in the Middle East region, other airports have significantly increased volumes in the first half of 2015. Both DOH and Dubai World Central (DWC), the second and third ranked airports, grew by 11.4% and 57.6% respectively. With capacity for 12 million metric tons of air freight, DWC is now set to be the region’s future air cargo hub. The new airport has experienced significant growth following the commencement of operations.
After the Middle East, North America posted the highest growth at 4.8% year over year in the first half of 2015. The higher growth in North America continues to coincide with an American rebound. Strong economic fundamentals helped propel the air freight market. For a mature market, the relatively high level of growth in air freight volumes represents a banner year, at least with respect to the first half of 2015. Growth is exceeding 2013 levels. Although Memphis (MEM), home of FedEx, increased by only 0.6%, other airports in the region achieved significant strides in year-over-year increases in volumes. With the investment in the airport’s Northeast Cargo Center, the biggest gains were achieved by ORD with volumes moving up by 20.5% in the first half of 2015.
Notes for Editors
1. Airports Council International (ACI), the only worldwide association of airports, has 590 member airport authorities, which operate 1,850 airports in 173 countries. ACI’s mission is to promote professional excellence in airport management and operations, and this mandate is carried out through the organization’s multiple training opportunities, as well as the customer service benchmarking programme, a wide range of conferences, industry statistical products and best practice publications.
2. PaxFlash and FreightFlash statistics are based on a significant sample of airports that provide regular monthly reports to ACI. They represent approximately 60% of total passenger traffic and 70% of total freight traffic worldwide. Commentary, tables and charts are based on preliminary data submitted by participating airports and are therefore subject to change.
3. Regional results and trend graphics are provided below.
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