Press Releases

ACI World publishes annual World Airport Traffic Report

Passenger and cargo growth show remarkable resilience in the face of ongoing global trade and political tensions

Montreal, 20 September 2018 – Airports Council International (ACI) World today published the 2018 edition of its Annual World Airport Traffic Report (WATR) which found that global passenger and cargo growth remained resilient and robust in the face of threats from trade and political tension around the world.

All regions experienced growth with a robust year-on-year global passenger increase of 7.5% in  2017 over 2016, one of the strongest growth rates on record. Air cargo also experienced a revival across many of the world’s airports in 2017, posting a record-breaking jump of 7.7% from the previous year.

As well, aircraft movements increased by 3% in 2017, the highest annual percentage growth increase since 2004.

All told, the world’s airports accommodated 8,277,676,508 passengers, 118,612,750 metric tonnes of cargo, and 95,772,011 aircraft movements.

Aviation’s centre of gravity continued to shift eastward in 2017. Most of the world’s fastest-growing large airports are located in emerging markets; 16 of the fastest-growing top 30 airports with over 15 million passengers are located in just two countries, China and India.

“Global passenger traffic has reached record levels as airports continued to make a crucial contribution to furthering economic development and global connectivity,” said Angela Gittens, Director General, ACI World. “While strong competitive forces continue to drive innovation and improvements in efficiency and service for passengers, airports face the challenges of meeting the continuing global growth in demand for air services.

“The core issue for our industry remains how we respond to this demand at a local, national, and international level as physical capacity considerations and potential bottlenecks in air transport infrastructure pose challenges in accommodating future air transport demand. To help to ensure communities continue to reap the social and economic benefits of air service growth, national policy should be focused on facilitating growth over the long-term, setting out clear objectives for their aviation sector.

“While airports and their partners strive to provide a positive response to the challenges of growth, the threat of heavy-handed regulation that hinders the economic sustainability of airport investment and operation and changes in international trade policy remain fundamental concerns. Protectionist policies that retreat from further economic integration and air transport liberalization could have adverse effects on the industry.

“Global air service growth has remained resilient but the continuing impact of protectionism and trade wars on international air transport services will likely have a major impact on airports in the future. The benefits of increased air travel are clear and further liberalization should be welcomed to maintain growth and improve connectivity to the benefit of the global trade and local communities.

“With data drawn from more than 2,500 airports in more than 175 countries, ACI’s WATR remains the authoritative source and industry reference for airport traffic and rankings. The 2018 edition, in particular, provides an analysis on traffic trends across all regions from 2000 to 2017 and an outlook for 2018.”

International traffic and industrial production: the key drivers for growth

Airports located in countries that are major exporters of manufactured goods handled almost 75% of global air cargo volume. Even with the uncertainty regarding the threat of trade wars and the growth of protectionist sentiments across the world, industrial production continued to make gains as a result of the cyclical recovery in the global economy. Inventory build-ups, augmented export orders and a strengthening of consumer demand reflected in increased online purchases were important drivers in the near-term. All of this translated into growth in air cargo volumes.

Emerging markets Vs. advanced economies

Passenger traffic in advanced economies grew 5.2% while passenger traffic in emerging economies grew 10.3% in 2017. It is expected that rising incomes in emerging markets will help propel global traffic to new heights in the coming decades as new aviation hubs begin to overtake the more mature markets of Western Europe and North America.

Sizeable population bases and rapid rises in incomes in emerging markets are the

main economic engines driving air transportation demand. The growth potential can be illustrated by the fact that countries located in emerging markets account for over 85% of the world’s population but less than half of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

World busiest airports for passengers

With 13 airports out of the top 30 busiest passenger hubs, Asia-Pacific dominates the ranking for 2017. Traffic at the world’s 30 busiest air passenger hubs grew 5.4% last year, serving almost 2 billion passengers, 24% of all global passenger traffic.

Atlanta-Hartsfield-Jackson maintained its position as the world’s busiest airport by handling just under 104 million passengers in 2017; Beijing held second spot with over 95 million passengers; Dubai International remained in third position with more than 88 million passengers and maintained its position as the world’s busiest hub for international passenger traffic.

Busiest airports for air cargo

Total air cargo volume at the 30 busiest cargo airports grew 7.3% in 2017. These airports handled a combined 62 million metric tonnes of cargo, representing 52% of all global air cargo volume. Hong Kong leads the ranking with five million metric tonnes of cargo handled in 2017, a 9.4% increase over 2016.

Memphis remained in second place with 4,3 million metric tonnes and Shanghai stayed in third with 3,8 million metric tonnes.

Notes for editors

  1. Top 20 airports for passengers and cargo – and a factsheet on key statistics from the WATR – are available for download.
  2. 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 2018, ACI serves 641 members operating 1953 airports in 176 countries.
  3. To order a PDF copy of the Report, please visit ACI’s publication section.

Media contacts:

Hicham Ayoun
Manager, Communications
ACI World
Telephone: +1 514 373 1223

Anita Berthier
Manager, External Relations and Special Events
ACI World
Telephone: +1 514 373 1254

Supplementary Tables:

Airport Ranking by Passengers

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Airport Ranking by Cargo

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Airport Ranking by Movements

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