INTERNATIONAL. Passenger traffic at the world’s 20 busiest air passenger hubs grew +4.7% in 2016, according to Airports Council International (ACI) figures.

The group of 20 airports represents some 18% of total global traffic, with over 1.4 billion passengers handled last year.

Total traffic across the 1,179 reporting airports was up +5.6%, while the number of international passengers grew +6.6%.

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Source: ACI Click on image to enlarge

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International retained the top spot as the world’s busiest airport, with +2.6% more passengers in 2016 to reach 104 million. Traffic at Beijing Capital International, in second position, grew +5% to over 94 million passengers. ACI said this was “subdued growth” compared to previous years “as it faced continuing capacity constraints”.

Dubai International remained in third position, with traffic up +7.2%. The airport is also the world’s busiest in terms of international passengers ahead of London Heathrow.

Los Angeles International moved from seventh to fourth position, with traffic up +8%. ACI said a “strengthened American economy and competitive airfares fuelled air transport demand”. International traffic increased +10.6%.

ACI reported that Asian airlines continued to make important inroads in the North American market on key international and trans-Pacific segments across airport pairs, particularly between North America and China. One of the major Chinese airports serving the trans-Pacific routes and other international routes is Shanghai Pudong, which grew +9.8% in 2016 to over 66 million passengers.

Seoul’s Incheon International saw double digit growth of +17.1% in 2016. “Even after factoring in the effect of the outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome, which depressed the passenger figures during the summer of 2015, [the airport] would still have achieved an estimated growth rate of at least +10%,” ACI said. “The continued growth of low cost carriers on key segments and the start of A380 flight operations of long-haul routes have paved the way for traffic expansions. A key contributor to traffic growth also relates to the consolidating demand of Korean and Japanese international routes.”

Passenger traffic at Tokyo Haneda, the world’s fifth busiest airport and Japan’s largest, grew +5.5% in 2016.

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Source: ACI Click on image to enlarge

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport saw +9.2% growth in 2016, while Denver International recorded an almost +8% increase – “a rate well above that which would have been expected from the mature North American market”, ACI said.

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ACI World Director General Angela Gittens: “We see passenger traffic continuing to grow at many of the major hubs”

The association noted that there are two airports outside the top 20 that are growing fast: Indira Gandhi International and Hamad International, the world’s 21st and 50th busiest airports. “Both airports achieved growth of over 20% in a single year although they each have distinct traffic composition,” ACI said.

“While almost three quarters of Indira Gandhi’s traffic is domestic, Hamad is a rapidly growing hub in the Middle East with almost all of its traffic reported as international. The dynamic between Indian aviation, which is poised to be one of the largest aviation markets over the long-term, and the Middle Eastern hubs as major points of connectivity will be important in the years to come.”

ACI World Director General Angela Gittens commented: “The aviation industry is constantly changing, adapting and innovating. Global aviation markets remain dynamic in the face of economic uncertainty and geopolitical risks that persist on many fronts. Connecting people and places still remains paramount to the aviation sector in spite of the looming threat to market liberalisation in major Western economies.

“We see passenger traffic continuing to grow at many of the major hubs. The combined use of larger aircraft, increased load factors by airlines and more efficient use of infrastructure continue to be an important trend across the industry. From a global perspective, this is a testament to the efficiency gains that have been achieved in the sector.”