Both international and domestic traffic posted strong growth rates of 5.8% and 4.5% respectively for the year, which ACI claims shows the aviation industry’s resilience in the face of the global uncertainties that beleaguered many economies in 2013 and 2014.
It states: “International tourism, in particular, was irrepressible in 2014 considering the geopolitical risks that have persisted in certain parts of the world such as Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
“The Ebola outbreak also presented significant challenges to the aviation sector. Notwithstanding, by and large, the international traveller in 2014 appears to have been immune to these potential dangers.”
African air transport demand is on the path to recovery with annualised growth of 3.2% in passenger traffic, according to ACI.
ACI notes: “Despite the adverse effects of the Ebola crisis on air transport in western parts of the African continent, Northern Africa has rebounded after a bleak period in passenger numbers for 2012 and 2013.
“From the eve of the Egyptian army-led overthrow of President Morsi to its aftermath, the tourist economy was crippled as passenger traffic dropped significantly in 2013.
“Cairo (CAI), North Africa’s busiest airport and gateway to popular tourist destinations, saw passenger traffic jump back by 6.5% in 2014 as compared to the previous year.
“Other Northern African airports such as Algiers (ALG) and Casablanca (CMN) experienced strong growth of 9.1% and 5.4% respectively for the year. Johannesburg (JNB), Africa’s busiest airport, ended the year with 1.3% gains in passenger numbers in 2014.”
According to ACI, Asia-Pacific airports reported overall growth in passenger traffic of almost 6% for the year as a whole.
It says: “Many of the region’s major commercial airports are experiencing slowing growth as some of them reach both capacity constraints and slowing demand.
“Beijing (PEK) grew by 2.9% in 2014, which is much lower than the yearly double-digit growth rates that it posted before 2011. That being said, China, as a whole is still posting growth in the realm of 7%, which is fuelled by an array of other airports serving the domestic Chinese market.
“The number two ranked airport in the Asia-Pacific region and Japan’s busiest airport, Haneda (HND), grew by 5.3% in 2014.”
Despite the economic uncertainties that persisted in the Euro area throughout 2014, the region ended the year on a positive note with passenger traffic rising by over 5% for the year, says ACI.
“Most of the major airports that were crippled by the Euro area crisis saw a revival in 2014. Madrid (MAD), Spain’s busiest airport, and Rome (FCO) saw traffic increase by 5.3% and 6.5% respectively in 2013,” it says.
“Athens (ATH), a major Greek tourist destination, saw traffic jump up by over 21%. Turkish airports continue to post robust growth figures for 2014. Istanbul (IST) continues to climb the rankings among the world’s busiest airports with growth of 10.6% on the year.
“On the other hand, geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe resulted in falling passenger traffic in Ukraine by 13% and lower growth at some of the major Russian airports.”
Latin American-Caribbean was one of the regions that experienced the highest growth in passenger traffic in 2014, ACI reveals.
It says: “With gains of over 6% for the region as a whole year over year, the increases in traffic are largely attributed to the burgeoning domestic markets of Brazil, Mexico and Colombia.
“In particular, the three major commercial airports of São Paulo (GRU), Mexico City (MEX) and Bogota (BOG) all experienced robust gains of 9.2%, 8.6% and 8.6% respectively in 2014.
“In spite of the recession in the region’s biggest economy, Brazil, passenger traffic remains unperturbed by the slowdown in economic activity.”
The Middle East continues to achieve the highest growth among all regions at an estimated 9.4% for the year as a whole, states ACI.
It reports: “Double-digit growth rates continue to persist for airports across the region. Abu Dhabi (AUH) and Doha (DOH) grew by 20.2% and 13.2% respectively.
“Preliminary traffic rankings for Dubai (DXB), the region’s busiest airport and one of the world’s major hubs, reveal that DXB has moved up to the sixth busiest airport in the world in 2014.
“It has become the world’s busiest international airport in 2014, surpassing London-Heathrow (LHR). Despite a runway closure for upgrading and refurbishment during June and July, the airport still achieved gains of 6.1% in passenger traffic over the year.”
According to ACI’s data, passenger numbers have seen a resurgence in North America.
ACI says: “Considering the maturity of the North American aviation market, growth of 3.3% is above the annualised trend of 0.5% year over year from 2000 to 2013.
“While domestic traffic dominates the share of passenger traffic in North America, international traffic continues to grow its piece of the market. For instance, with the expansion of its international terminal, Los Angeles (LAX) has grown by almost 7% in international passenger traffic.
“This has allowed the airport to position itself among the fastest growing major commercial airports in North America on the year. Traffic as whole at the airport grew by 6%. Atlanta (ATL), the world’s busiest airport, increased by 1.8% in 2014 to over 96 million passengers per annum.”
ACI World’s economics director, Rafael Echevarne, comments: “In previous years we saw a marked divergence in growth between airports located in emerging markets versus those that are located in advanced economies.
“That is, the mature markets of North America and Europe experienced modest growth levels whereas the major emerging economies such as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) had posted double-digit gains year-after-year.
“The recent cyclical slowdown in emerging markets has translated into lower growth levels with respect to both passenger and air freight traffic. However, the advanced economies of Europe and North America have rebounded in 2014, which resulted in a form of convergence in growth rates across the regions.”
He adds: “Regardless of the economic, geo-political and health risks that lingered on the horizon in 2014, it is impressive to witness the overall resilience of the industry,”
“Air freight rebounded after almost three years of growth stagnation whereas passenger traffic continues to post growth in the realm of 5% year after year following the Great Recession.”