ACI Media Releases

ACI releases 2013 World Airport Traffic Report: Airport passenger traffic still going strong; air cargo inches along after third year of weak growth - Sep 16, 2014

Montréal, 17 September 2014 Airports Council International (ACI) has released the latest edition of the World Airport Traffic Report. With comprehensive data coverage for almost 2,000 airports in 160 countries worldwide, ACI’s flagship publication remains the authoritative source and industry reference for the latest airport traffic data, rankings and trends on air transport demand.

“With many major economies remaining in a fragile state, 2013 can best be characterized as a year of unstable recovery for the global economy,” said Angela Gittens, Director General of ACI World. “Despite this challenging operating climate, worldwide traffic surpassed the 6 billion passenger mark in 2013. This represents an enormous feat for the airport industry as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of commercial aviation in 2014.

“The opportunities that lay ahead for aviation are numerous, particularly in emerging markets,” Gittens continued. “Indeed, the huge demographic bases in many of these economies, coupled with rising per-capita income, will mean continued growth at airports in these markets. The growth in air transport demand and the services that airports provide will have a beneficial multiplier effect within local economies where airports operate, as well as across industries and the global economy.

“Given both the potential pitfalls and opportunities for aviation now and in the coming years, having a reliable data source to count on is more important than ever,” Gittens added. “ACI continues to deliver the most comprehensive airport traffic data and rankings in an internationally comparable format to provide our members and readership a global view of the industry as a whole.”

Key statistics in brief

Passenger traffic

Worldwide airport passenger numbers increased by 4.6% in 2013 to 6.3 billion, registering increases in all six regions.

Atlanta (ATL) remains the busiest airport on the globe with 94.4 million passengers in 2013. Although traffic at the airport was down 1.1% over 2012, the second ranked Beijing (PEK), with 83.7 million passengers, experienced more subdued growth of 2.2% in 2013 as compared to the double-digit growth it achieved in previous years.

Airport traffic in emerging markets and developing economies grew faster (8.7%) than in advanced countries (1.8%) in 2013, with emerging markets reaching a 42% share of global passenger traffic.

During 2013, the highest number of passengers went through airports in the Asia-Pacific region:
  1. Asia-Pacific (2.06 billion, up 8.7% over 2012)
  2. Europe (1.73 billion, up 3.2% over 2012)
  3. North America (1.57 billion, up 1.1% over 2012)
  4. Latin America-Caribbean (501 million, up 5.5% over 2012)
  5. Middle East (278 million, up 7% over 2012)
  6. Africa (164 million, up 0.5% over 2012)

With almost 1.3 billion passengers, BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), which represent 20% of global passenger traffic, achieved strong growth of 8.6% in passenger traffic. MINT countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) achieved similar traffic growth, with an 8.8% increase for passenger traffic in 2013.

One of the fastest-growing airports among the world’s busiest is Dubai International (DXB), which moved from 10th to 7th position in 2013 as a result of its passenger traffic growing more than 15% during the year.

Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST, which ranks 18th) and Kuala Lumpur (KUL, which ranks 20th) are two other airports that experienced double-digit passenger growth rates in 2013, with increases of 13.7% and 19.1% respectively.

The world’s top 30 airport cities handle more than one-third of global passenger traffic. London remains the world’s largest airport system with almost 140 million passengers handled at six airports. New York maintains the second position with 112 million passengers at three airports. Tokyo is the third city market with 105 million passengers.

The world’s busiest international airports (international passenger traffic):
  1. London, United Kingdom – LHR (67.3 million, up 3.2% over 2012)
  2. Dubai, United Arab Emirates – DXB (65.9 million, up 15.3% over 2012)
  3. Hong Kong, China – HKG (59.3 million, up 6.5% over 2012)

The world’s busiest domestic airports (domestic passenger traffic):
  1. Atlanta GA, USA – ATL (84.2 million, down 1.7% over 2012)
  2. Beijing, China (People's Rep. of China) – PEK (67.5 million, up 1.6% over 2012)
  3. Tokyo, Japan – HND (60.9 million, up 3.5% over 2012)

Air cargo traffic

Worldwide airport cargo increased slightly by 0.9% in 2013 to 96 million metric tonnes, with mixed levels of growth across all six regions.
Hong Kong (HKG) and Memphis (MEM) take the first and second ranks respectively for the busiest air cargo airports. Each airport handled over 4 million metric tonnes in 2013.

Airports in the Asia-Pacific region handled the largest amount of air cargo during 2013:
  1. Asia-Pacific (37 million metric tonnes, up 2.1% over 2012)
  2. North America (27.9 million metric tonnes, down 0.1% over 2012)
  3. Europe (17.8 million metric tonnes, up 0.2% over 2012)
  4. Middle East (6.5 million metric tonnes, up 3.9% over 2012)
  5. Latin America-Caribbean (5.1 million metric tonnes, down 0.8% over 2012)
  6. Africa (1.8 million metric tonnes, down 3.4% over 2012)
The world’s air cargo market is highly concentrated, with the top 30 air cargo hubs handling 57% of global air cargo volumes. Hong Kong and Memphis remain the busiest airports in terms of air cargo traffic (4.17 and 4.14 million metric tonnes of cargo respectively). The two Shanghai airports—PVG and SHA—handle 3.36 million tonnes combined, taking the third position in the air cargo hubs ranking.

The world’s busiest international airports (international freight traffic):
  1. Hong Kong, China – HKG (4.1 million metric tonnes, up 2.5% over 2012)
  2. Dubai, United Arab Emirates – DXB (2.43 million metric tonnes, up 6.8% over 2012)
  3. Incheon, Korea (Rep of Korea) – ICN (2.39 million metric tonnes, down 0.1% over 2012)
The world’s busiest domestic airports (domestic freight traffic):
  1. Memphis TN, USA – MEM (3.9 million metric tonnes, up 2.9% over 2012)
  2. Louisville KY, USA – SDF (1.7 million metric tonnes, down 2.8% over 2012)
  3. Beijing, China (People's Rep. of China) – PEK (1.1 million metric tonnes, up 2.9% over 2012)

Aircraft movements

Worldwide aircraft movements increased slightly by 0.6% in 2013 to 82 million, with mixed levels of growth across all six regions.
The rankings for the busiest airports by aircraft movements have remained unchanged. Atlanta (ATL) continues to occupy the top spot with eight of the ten airports in the rankings from the United States.

Airports in the North American region recorded the highest number of movements during 2013:
  1. North America (29.4 million, down 1.4% over 2012)
  2. Europe (20.8 million, down 1.6% over 2012)
  3. Asia-Pacific (18.3 million, up 7.2% over 2012)
  4. Latin America-Caribbean (8.3 million, down 1.8% over 2012)
  5. Africa (2.7 million, up 1.2% over 2012)
  6. Middle East (2.5 million, up 3.7% over 2012)

2014 Outlook

“Preliminary airport traffic results for the first half of 2014 show encouraging signs of a steady recovery in the global passenger and cargo markets. The overall passenger growth rate in the first six months of 2014 was 4.8%, which is above the equivalent year-over-year figure from 2013. The cargo market has also seen a notable turnaround, displaying an overall growth rate of 3.7% for the first half of 2014 compared with a net decline for the same period the previous year,” said Dr. Rafael Echevarne, Director of Economics and Programme Development, ACI World.

“However, at the time of writing, a number of developments indicate that the airport industry still faces growth challenges. Indeed, there remains a lingering uncertainty surrounding demand for air transport worldwide. This is clearly influenced by social and political volatility in areas of the world such as Eastern Europe, the Middle East and West Africa. Whilst this volatility obviously has a direct negative impact on traffic at airports located in the affected areas, the potential for a contagious effect on traffic at airports in other parts of the world is real.”

Supplementary tables


Notes to editors


1. Airports Council International (ACI), the only worldwide association of airports, has 591 member airport authorities, which operate 1,861 airports in 177 countries. ACI’s mission is to promote professional excellence in airport management and operations, and this mandate is carried out through the organization’s multiple training opportunities, as well as the customer service benchmarking programme, a wide range of conferences, industry statistical products and best practice publications

2. The World Airport Traffic Report 2013 (WATR 2013) is the most comprehensive source of airport traffic data on the market. Based on input from 1989 commercial airports from 160 countries, data is presented in five key global traffic categories: total passenger, total cargo, aircraft movements, international passenger and international freight. Rankings by order of busiest airports in each category are provided. The report also groups results region by region, country by country, as well as airport by airport.

3. ACI produces a full range of publications covering airport policies/standards, monthly and yearly traffic reports, airport economics and global traffic forecasting. The WATR 2013, and previous editions, can be purchased on the ACI website at www.aci.aero/Publications-Listing.

4. For the PDF download of this media release, please click here.

Media Contacts

Martine Ohayon
Director, Communications and Events
ACI World
T: +1 514 373 1224
E: mohayon@aci.aero

Ryan White
Manager, Communications
ACI World
T: +1 514 373 1226
E: rwhite@aci.aero
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