Press Releases

Mature market hubs achieve emerging market growth rates

Montréal, 19 September 2017 –  Airports Council International (ACI) has released the latest edition of the World Airport Traffic Report. ACI’s flagship publication, representing over 2,400 airports in 175 countries worldwide, reveals that many mature market airports have made large strides in their throughput volumes.

“The irony is that several of the mature markets appear to be no longer mature as compared to their historical growth levels as they diverge from the average annual growth rates,” said Angela Gittens, Director General, ACI World. “Instead of seeing year over year growth rates that converge to expected values and conventional forecasts, growth rates for a number of airports are approaching what we see in some emerging markets.”

North America – fervent demand in the burgeoning pacific

Boasting a large short- and medium-haul domestic market for both passenger and air cargo traffic, the United States remains the leading country aviation market in the world. While international traffic still represents a small share, the growth rates in international passenger traffic are substantive at many of North America’s airport hubs. The feedback loops and multiplier effects from travel to and from some of the most populous emerging markets is also evident in the burgeoning trans-Pacific market. Asian airlines continued to make important inroads in the North American market on key international and trans-Pacific segments across many airport pairs such as Los Angeles–Beijing and Los Angeles–Shanghai among others. West coast airports such as Los Angeles (LAX), which boasts over 80 million passengers per annum, saw traffic leap 8% in 2016. Strong growth is also observed on routes between North American airports and other major hubs in Latin American markets such as Mexico and Argentina.

“No frills” business model stimulates demand in Europe

Low-cost carriers operating on short-haul routes have come to occupy a large share of the European aviation market. These carriers have provided almost half of the intra-Europe capacity in 2016. Spain, which is one of Europe’s largest market, has recovered quickly from its recession during the Euro area crisis. The country market has experienced significant growth at its major airports, brought by the expansion of low-cost carriers and competitive fare pricing.

European aviation is characterized as a highly competitive air transport market. The continued inroads made by the low-cost carrier, high frequency and volume intensive business model, coupled with the positioning of Middle Eastern and Turkish hubs for enhanced connectivity, have galvanized the mature European market. Even considering the devastating terrorist attacks that took place at Brussels (BRU) and Istanbul-Atatürk (IST) airports, passenger and air cargo traffic grew 5.2% and 5% respectively. The versatility of the overall European air transport sector made itself evident through destination switching by passengers. Moreover, because of the huge array of connecting options at airports across Europe, passengers were quick to switch to other airports to connect their journeys. Estimates point to significant growth of 9% for European airports during the first half of 2017 with many of the region’s largest hubs achieving above average growth levels.

Key statistics in brief

  • Airports located in advanced economies experienced a resurgence in passenger traffic and air cargo volumes with year over year growth of 5.2% and 3.1% respectively in 2016. This is above the compounded annual growth rates for passenger and cargo traffic which are at 2.2% and 0.5% respectively for the period from 2006 to 2016.


Key statistics in brief

  • Worldwide airport passenger numbers increased 6.5% in 2016 to almost 7.7 billion, registering increases in all regions except Africa, which had a slight decrease of 0.4% due to the region’s 1.7% decrease in international passenger.
  • During 2016, the highest number of passengers traveled through airports in the Asia-Pacific region:
  1.    Asia-Pacific (2.73 billion, up 10.6% over 2015)
  2.    Europe (2.04 billion, up 5.2% over 2015)
  3.    North America (1.79 billion, up 3.8% over 2015)
  4.    Latin America-Caribbean (588 million, up 1.2% over 2015)
  5.    Middle East (369 million, up 9.4% over 2015)
  6.    Africa (182 million, down 0.4% over 2015)
  • Atlanta (ATL) remains the busiest airport on the globe with 104 million passengers in 2016. Traffic was up 5% over 2015 at Beijing (PEK) with 94 million passengers, maintaining second in world ranking. Third ranked airport, Dubai (DXB), also stayed in the same position as 2015 with 84 million passengers despite an impressive 7.2% growth throughout the year.
  • The world’s fastest-growing airports with over 15 million passengers are:
  1.     Bangalore (BLR) (22.2 million, up 22.5% over 2015)
  2.     Hoh Chi Minh (SGN) (32.5 million, up 22.4% over 2015)
  3.     New Delhi (DEL) (55.6 million, up 21% over 2015)
  • Dubai (DXB) is still the third busiest airport in the world in overall passenger traffic, and has widened its leading position as the world’s busiest in terms of international passenger traffic ahead of London-Heathrow (LHR) throughout 2016.
  • Shanghai (PVG) remains one of the fastest growing airports among the world’s top 20 airports for passenger traffic, moving from 13th to 9th place and growing 9.8%.  Los Angeles (LAX) also had a high growth rate of 8%, moving from 7th to 4th rank in terms of total passenger traffic in 2016.
  • The world’s busiest airports in international passenger traffic are:
  1.    Dubai (DXB) (83.1 million, up 7.3% over 2015)
  2.    London-Heathrow (LHR) (71 million, up 1.7% over 2015)
  3.    Hong Kong (HKG) (70.1 million, up 3% over 2015)
  • The world’s busiest airports in domestic passenger traffic are:
  1.    Atlanta (ATL) (92.7 million, up 2.7% over 2015)
  2.    Beijing (PEK) (73.8 million, up 3.4% over 2015)
  3.    Chicago (ORD) (66.1 million, up 0.4% over 2015)

Air cargo traffic:

  • Worldwide airport cargo increased 4% in 2016 to 110 million metric tonnes, with mixed levels of growth across all six regions.
  • Hong Kong (HKG) and Memphis (MEM) take the first and second ranks respectively for the busiest air cargo airports with 4.6 and 4.3 million metric tonnes in 2016.
  • Airports in the Asia-Pacific region handled the largest amount of air cargo during 2016:
    • Asia-Pacific (43.4 million metric tonnes, up 5.4% over 2015)
    • North America (30.8 million metric tonnes, up 2.4% over 2015)
    • Europe (20.1 million metric tonnes, up 5% over 2015)
    • Middle East (8.8 million metric tonnes, up 2.7% over 2015)
    • Latin America-Caribbean (5.1 million metric tonnes, up 0.9% over 2015)
    • Africa (2.1 million metric tonnes, up 1.3% over 2015)
  • The world’s fastest-growing airports handling over 250,000 metric tonnes of air cargo during 2016 are:
  1.     Moscow (SVO) (256 thousand metric tonnes, up 28.8% over 2015)
  2.     Doha (DOH) (1.76 million metric tonnes, up 20.8% over 2015)
  3.     Hanoi (HAN) (566 thousand metric tonnes, up 18.2% over 2015)
  • The world’s busiest airports in international freight traffic are:
  1.    Hong Kong (HKG) (4.52 million metric tonnes, up 3.2% over 2015)
  2.    Incheon (ICN) (2.60 million metric tonnes, up 4.5% over 2015)
  3.    Dubai (DXB) (2.59 million metric tonnes, up 3.4% over 2015)
  • The world’s busiest airports in domestic freight traffic are:
  1.    Memphis (MEM) (3.80 million metric tonnes, down 6.1% over 2015)
  2.    Louisville (SDF) (1.91 million metric tonnes, up 3.3% over 2015)
  3.    Beijing (PEK) (1.14 million metric tonnes, down 1.2% over 2015)

Aircraft movements:

  • Worldwide aircraft movements increased 2.7% in 2016 to 91.8 million, with mixed levels of growth across all six regions.
  • Atlanta (ATL) retained its position as the busiest airport in terms of aircraft movements, followed by Chicago (ORD) and Los Angeles (LAX).
  • Airports in the North American region recorded the highest number of movements in 2016:
  1.    North America (31.2 million, up 1.6% over 2015)
  2.    Europe (23.7 million, up 2.1% over 2015)
  3.    Asia-Pacific (22.9 million, up 7.5% over 2015)
  4.    Latin America-Caribbean (8 million, down 4.1% over 2015)
  5.    Africa (3 million, down 1.4% over 2015)
  6.    Middle East (2.9 million, up 7.5% over 2015)
  • Top 3 contributors to global aircraft movement growth by country share:
  1. China (People’s Republic of China) (660 thousand increase in movements representing a share of 27.6% of the global increase)
  2. United States (510 thousand increase in movements representing a share of 21.3% of the global increase)
  3. India (257 thousand increase in movements representing a share of 10.8% of the global increase)
Notes for editors
1.Airports Council International (ACI), the trade association of the world’s airports, was founded in 1991 with the objective of fostering cooperation among its member airports and other partners in world aviation, including the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Air Transport Association and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization. In representing the best interests of airports during key phases of policy development, ACI makes a significant contribution toward ensuring a global air transport system that is safe, secure, efficient and environmentally sustainable. As of January 2017, ACI serves 623 members operating 1,940 airports in 176 countries.

2. Learn more on, and/or order the ACI World Airport Traffic Report. With comprehensive data coverage for over 2,400 airports in 175 countries worldwide, ACI’s flagship publication remains the authoritative source and industry reference for the latest airport traffic trends, rankings and data rankings on air transport demand.

3. Download the latest WATR infographic.

4. Download the PDF version of this media release

Media contact
Sabrina Guerrieri 
Manager, Communications 
ACI World 
Telephone: +1 514 373 1223 
Anita Berthier 
Manager, External Relations and Special Events   
ACI World   
Telephone: +1 514 373 1254   
– ENDS –