Hartsfield-Jackson Still World’s Busiest in Global Ranking

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

Demand has continued its robust year-on-year growth across the world’s major airports both in terms of passenger numbers and air cargo. Passenger traffic at the world’s 20 busiest airports grew by 5.2% in 2017. With almost 1.5 billion passengers passing through their terminals in 2017, this group of 20 represents 17% of global passenger traffic.

  • Based on reports from 1,202 airports worldwide, ACI’s preliminary passenger traffic results for the most-traveled airports in 2017 reveal that Atlanta-Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) has secured top spot again. With almost 104 million passengers, the airport is within a two-hour flight of 80% of the United States’ population. Beijing (PEK), holds second spot and Dubai (DXB) remained in third position. As a major connection point for long-haul international flights, Dubai International Airport is also the world’s busiest in terms of international passengers. Total passenger traffic at DXB grew 5.5% in 2017.

  • Delhi (DEL) jumped from 22nd to 16th solidifying its status as one of the fastest growing airports in the world for passenger traffic; Guangzhou (CAN), in China, grew by 10.3% making it the second fastest growing airport among the top 20.

Air cargo – strengthening trade, e-commerce, and the reliability factor

Air cargo volumes at the 20 busiest airports grew by 6.8% in 2017. These airports handled a combined 51 million metric tonnes of cargo. This represents 43% of global air cargo volumes.

  • Hong Kong (HKG) occupies top spot as the largest air cargo center handling more than five million metric tonnes of cargo in 2017. Volumes at HKG grew by 9.4% year-on-year. Shanghai (PVG), Chicago (ORD) and Doha (DOH) all experienced double digit growth of 11.2%, 12.6% and 15.0% respectively.

Air cargo experienced a revival across many of the world’s airports in 2017 and into 2018. Even with the uncertainty regarding the threat of trade wars and the growth of protectionist sentiments across the world, business confidence has remained strong through inventory build-ups and increased export orders in 2017.

A strengthened economy in the United States (US), together with an increase in global industrial production, and a strong US dollar have boosted inbound air cargo markets in recent years. Key air cargo centers, such as Chicago – O’Hare (ORD), experienced growth of 12.6% for 2017. The airport, which has significantly expanded its air cargo facilities, is centrally located geographically serving regional manufacturing within an intermodal transport network. The airport has also benefitted from international trade with China and other Asian countries. ORD’s international freight volumes increased by 12.2% in 2017.

Global summary: Preliminary year-over-year growth for 2017, compared to 2016

  • Total passengers: +6.6%

  • Total international passengers: +8.4%

  • Total cargo (includes mail): +7.9%

  • Total international freight: +9.9%

  • Total aircraft movements: +2.4%

“The surge in cargo volumes and passenger numbers across many of the world’s airports is testament to heightened business and consumer confidence, at least in the short term,” said Angela Gittens, Director General, ACI World. “The world’s airports continue to be a vital link in the economic multiplier effect that aviation provides and the role it plays as an enabler for global commerce is growing”.

“The universal access to online retail and e-commerce platforms represents a competitive pressure to the traditional brick and mortar retail shops in certain markets but the huge growth in e-commerce has fuelled the air cargo side of the airport business. This has resulted in increased global activity, especially in major markets such as China and the US.”

Gittens added, “The spectre of uncertainty regarding trade policy among major economies comes at a time when global commerce and our industry has recently thrived. The trans-pacific link, for instance, is an important ingredient in boosting international passenger traffic and international freight volumes”.

“Connecting people, business and places still remains paramount to the aviation sector despite the recent threats of a step backwards in market liberalization in some major economies,” Gittens concluded.