Air Transport World

Airports on a roll.

Arthur D. Little/ATW World Airport Report

World airport passenger traffic posted a fourth consecutive year of growth in 2006, reaching a total of 4.4 billion passengers, 4.9% higher than in 2005. "The growth rate is slightly slowing down compared to 2005-04 and 2004-03 when global airport passenger traffic recorded increases of 6.2% and 10.5% respectively," says Laurent Delarue, senior manager at Arthur D. Little, which conducted a comprehensive analysis of world airport traffic and is presenting it in cooperation with ATW.

Annual passenger growth differed from region to region, with Eastern Europe, Russia and the CIS posting the highest gain of 11.2% (Table 1). Asian airports came in second with a lofty growth rate of 9.7%. Growth in the Middle East was still at top level with plus 9.1%, while Western European airports' traffic rose 6.1% as the group benefited from several major events including the Winter Olympic Games in Italy and the FIFA World Cup in Germany. European and Asian airports accounted for 75% of the global growth. Oceania, defined as Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, posted a below-average growth of 4.1%. The only geographical area really lagging behind was North America with only a 0.7-point increase compared to 2005.

Table 1
Evolution of airport traffic between 2001 and 2006 by geographical areas

Geographic breakdown of airport traffic - Year 2006

North America                     +0.7%    34.8%
Latin America and West Indies     +6.0%     6.8%
Western Europe                    +6.1%    29.9%
Middle East                       +9.1%     2.3%
Africa                            +6.6%     2.6%
Eastern Europe Russia-CIS        +11.2%     1.1%
Asia                              +9.7%    19.6%
Oceania                           +4.1%     2.8%

Sources: Arthur D. Little analysis, ACI 2006 and airports data

Note: Table made from pie chart.


Based on the 2007 passenger traffic evolution and traffic trends observed from January to May, Arthur D. Little forecasts global airport passenger traffic growth of higher than 5% this year. "Perspectives are even better [than 2006], supported by the recovery of the US airports and a higher growth in Middle East, Africa and South America," according to Delarue. "Traffic in Europe is stable, and only Asia is stalling."

Although last year's passenger increase of 4.9% is lower than in previous years, it "still is a quite honorable growth," Delarue believes, noting that it was fueled equally by continuing economic expansion (worldwide GDP rose 4%) and international tourism growth. According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, the tourism sector enjoyed an above-average growth rate of 4.5% last year, exceeding expectations and making 2006 a new record year for the industry. Airport traffic growth remained within the usual GDP multiples (structurally it lies between one to two times the growth rate of the GDP depending on market maturity) in most geographical areas, yet there were some notable exceptions.

Japan and the US encountered airport traffic growth much lower than GDP growth, whereas passenger throughput at the EU's eurozone airports grew more than twice as fast as GDP. Poland experienced airport traffic growth of 30% against GDP growth of 6% as low-cost carriers such as Wizz Air and Norwegian took off. India also was well above industry standards, with passenger traffic up 32% and GDP up 8.3%. China, meanwhile, came back to normalcy; its GDP rose about 10% and passenger traffic just over 15%. Nonetheless, Beijing Capital International added the most passengers of any airport in absolute figures in 2006, an impressive 7.5 million, and moved up six positions to ninth place in ACI's ranking of the world's busiest airports (see Beijing Airport Profile, p. 29).

Asia Leads As a matter of fact, most of the fastest-growing Intercontinental Hubs (see airport definitions, p. 54) and biggest contributors to traffic growth are located in Asia (Table 2), whereas six of the world's 10 worstperforming Intercontinental airports are in the US (Table 3). Cincinnati Northern Kentucky fell the furthest, posting a 28.7% decline that translated into 6.5 million fewer passengers in 2006. Washington Dulles International lost 4 million passengers. According to the ADL analysis, North American Intercontinental Hubs in aggregate recorded a traffic decline of 1.4% last year (Table 4). In contrast, such airports airports were the main driver for traffic growth in Asia/Oceania.

Table 2: World's top 10 performing lntercontinental hubs 2005 - 2006

Reative growth

DEL  28%
BOM  23%
ADD  22%
BAH  20%
PEK  18%
DXB  16%
PVG  13%
CAN  11%
JNB  10%
BKK  10%

Additional passenger volume
(passengers in millions)

PEK  7.5
DEL  4.3
BOM  4.0
DXB  4.0
BKK  3.8
HKG  3.7
MAD  3.6
PVG  3.1
CDG  3.1
CAN  2.6

Sources: Arthur D. Little analysis, ACI 2006 and airports data

Note: Table made from bar graph.


Table 3: World's worst 10 performing lntercontinental hubs 2005 - 2006

      Relative decrease  Decline in passenger volume
                          (passengers in millions)

CVG              -28. … 

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