With global passenger growth in the realm of 3% year-over-year for the last twelve months, October represented a banner month for passenger traffic as airports in advanced economies bounced back with strong gains heading into the third quarter of 2013.
Since global commerce was very sluggish for most of 2013, the gains in air freight signal a marked improvement in certain markets. The world's airports reported an overall year-over-year gain of 4.1% in air freight traffic for the month of October. The rise in air freight volumes is consistent with the recent improvements in international trade volumes and overall business confidence.
Regional Markets: Passengers
Africa was the only region to post a year-over-year decline for the month of October dropping by 5.2% in total passenger traffic. Egyptian airports continue to experience the brunt of political unrest. Cairo (CAI), North Africa's busiest airport and entry to major tourist destinations, experienced a decline of 10.8% in passenger numbers. Johannesburg (JNB), continental Africa's busiest airport, declined by 1% as compared to the previous year.
With overall growth of 8% in passenger traffic for the month of October, virtually all of the major hubs in the Asia-Pacific region experienced robust growth rates. International passenger traffic was a driving force behind the gains for the region, growing by almost 10%. While economies such as China face a cyclical slowdown, passenger traffic at Chinese airports remained relatively strong. Seven of the major Chinese airports with over two million passengers for the month of October had a combined 9% increase in passenger traffic.
The performance of air transport demand at European airports is beginning to gain momentum. Except for the peripheral countries of the Euro area, most of the major airports recovered from the weak traffic figures that persisted throughout the year. Of the top twenty airports, only Madrid (MAD), Spain's busiest airport, and Rome (FCO) saw traffic drop by 9.8% and 1.6% respectively in October. At the other end of the spectrum, Turkish airports posted robust growth figures. Both Istanbul (IST) posted growth rates of 9.1% for the month. The region, as a whole, posted gains of 4.3%.
Latin American airports continue to report buoyant growth in passenger traffic. In particular, the Sao Paulo airports (GRU and CGH) both posted double digit gains of over 10%. In addition to the leading Brazilian airports, Mexico City (MEX), which also serves a large domestic market, posted overall gains of 7.1% in passenger traffic for October.
The Middle East continues to achieve the highest growth among all regions month after month. For the month of October traffic increased by 10%. Double digit growth rates continue to persist for airports across the region. Dubai (DXB) and Abu Dhabi (AUH) grew by 15.1% and 15.8% respectively.
While growth in North America remains at relatively modest levels, passenger traffic posted a gain of 2.8% for month of October. This represents an above average month for North America since year-over-year growth for the last twelve months was in the vicinity of 1%. As compared to other major airports in the region, Los Angeles (LAX) continues to achieve impressive passenger increases as it recorded over 6% for the month of October.
Regional Markets: Air Freight
Johannesburg (JNB), the highest ranking airport in terms of air freight in Africa, had a drop of 13% in freight volumes. Given that the airport handles almost 20% of Africa's global freight volume on an annual basis, JNB's decline contributed to the overall continental decline of 8.1%.
The global air freight hubs of Hong Kong (HKG), Shanghai (PVG) and Incheon (ICN), which make up a considerable proportion of traffic in the Asia-Pacific region, had year-over-year increases of 6.1%, 10.7% and 2.5% respectively. This is in stark contrast to previous months where growth was much lower or even in negative territory. The major top ten airports posted gains in freight traffic. The region, as a whole, grew by 4.5% in air freight volumes for the month of October.
European air freight markets posted the strongest gains since the beginning of 2013. While certain major airports continue to experience a decrease in air freight volumes, there was a net gain in volumes, which translated in an increase of 4.2% in air freight traffic. Frankfurt (FRA) led the pack in terms of air freight as volumes increased by 3.4%.
Two of Latin America's largest air freight hubs, Sao Paulo (GRU) and Mexico City (MEX), contracted by 8.2% and 3.1% respectively. Many airports in the region saw their freight volumes decline in October. Of the ten major air freight airports in Latin-America, five of them were in decline for the month. The region's airports had a collective decline of 2.1%.
The Middle East posted moderate gains in air freight traffic at 3.3% growth for the month of October. Abu Dhabi, the third ranked airport in terms of freight volume, reported a gain of over 17.9% in freight traffic, whereas Dubai (DXB), the region's leading airport, grew by 3% for the month.
Of all regions, North America posted the strongest gains in air freight volumes for the month of October. Traffic grew by 5.1% for the region. Considering that growth in traffic was almost flat for most of 2013, the surge in volumes for the month of October points to a considerable improvement. Three of North America's leading air freight hubs all reported robust increases in freight volumes for the month of October. Memphis (MEM), home of FedEx and the world's second busiest air freight airport, showed a significant increase of 7.6%. Anchorage (ANC) and Louisville (SDF) increased by 5.7% and 6.5% respectively.
ACI World's Economics Director Rafael Echevarne commented, "Macroeconomic indicators point to a continuing recovery in the Euro area and the United States, which are interlinked with the aviation sector. While there is a revived sense of optimism based on the latest traffic figures, it is still early to adopt the view that we are completely out of the woods. Nevertheless, key emerging aviation markets such as Dubai, Istanbul and Sao Paulo continue to post strong gains in passenger traffic in spite of the downside risks. For the month of October, only three out of the top 30 airports reported having a decline in year-over-year passenger traffic."