ACI Media Releases

Airports’ bottom line remained stable as the industry continued to weather the storm of economic uncertainty - Mar 21, 2017

Airports’ bottom line remained stable as the industry continued to weather the storm of economic uncertainty 


London, 21 March 2017 – Airports Council International (ACI) has released the Airport Key Performance Indicators for the 2015 financial year. With comprehensive data coverage from a sample of over 800 commercial airports, the publication provides invaluable insight into areas ranging from financial and employee performance to airport operations and fixed-asset productivity on both the aeronautical and non-aeronautical (commercial) sides of the business. Since airports are complex businesses that operate in unique and evolving physical, financial and regulatory environments, the use of internationally comparable indicators provides quantifiable barometers of industry activity.

Key facts and figures are summarized in the accompanying KPI infographic.

Airport revenues – Diversification during uncertain times

Global airport revenues were largely unfettered in the face of the economic uncertainties and downside risks that have persisted across the world’s markets. The overall health of the airport industry remained intact as revenues grew in line with the robust growth rates in global air transport demand. Industry revenues as a whole grew 6%, reaching almost US$152 billion.

Airports receive their revenue from two primary sources: aeronautical and non-aeronautical activities. The major share of revenue remains aeronautical, representing 56% of the total in 2015, while non-aeronautical revenue continues to be an important source of income for airports. The latter not only provides diversification in an airport’s income portfolio, but also helps cover the costs of running an airport. Non-aeronautical and non-operating revenues make up 39.8% and 4.2% respectively.

A majority of airports across the globe have put the emphasis on generating a higher proportion of revenues by charging passengers as opposed to aircraft operators. After adjusting for inflation, the greatest increase in aeronautical revenues came from passenger charges which increased 8.6% year-over-year, in tandem with the surge in passenger traffic in 2015.

Revenues from landing charges on the other hand, experienced a more modest gain of 3.4%. On the aeronautical side of the business, 56% of every dollar was generated from passenger-related charges as compared to other aeronautical sources of income such as aircraft-related revenues.

Return on invested capital – Stable returns but will it last?

Any discussion of revenues would be incomplete without addressing the bottom line and returns on invested capital (ROIC). ROIC is a robust measure of profitability because it not only considers the effective management of total revenues and total costs for a calendar year, but incorporates the balance sheet and invested capital. The global return on airports’ invested capital was 6.4%. Airports located in advanced economies and in emerging markets and developing economies experienced a return of 5.9% and 8.6% respectively. Industry returns have remained relatively stable in the realm of 6% to 6.5% since 2011, which has coincided with global estimates for the weighted average cost capital (WACC). In other words, airport operators have achieved a breakeven point since the WACC is a barometer of the opportunity cost of invested capital.

“There are political and economic pendulums that are moving in opposite directions within the aviation sector,” said Angela Gittens, Director General, ACI World. “The increased presence of the low-cost business model among carriers coupled with historically low jet fuel prices, have certainly acted as catalysts to stimulate air transport demand through lower fare offerings.

“At the same time, inward-looking policies and protectionist rhetoric have swept several western countries and could potentially translate into trade wars and block the advances in the liberalization of air transport. Airport operators are cognizant of this new reality as they work closely with aviation stakeholders and airline clients to mitigate these risks.

“From a historical perspective, airports appear to be safe investments on the surface in that there is a certain degree of stability and predictability in their returns. Airlines, on the other hand, have a degree of variability in their returns due to the nature of their business, which is characterized by less stability in their operating environment.

“However, airport operators face significant risks in that their time horizon spans over several decades. Airports incur huge capital outlays on infrastructure in the short-term for the provision of benefits to users that extend over the long-term. Airline clients, who are users of the infrastructure, have a much shorter time horizon, their own scheduled routes and capacity planning may vary significantly from year to year.  Airport operators are often placed in a position where they must engage in a high-wire balancing act.

“On the one hand, airports are faced with stringent regulations governing their aeronautical revenues and in certain cases must finance the smaller loss-making airports in their network. On the other hand, they must finance and expand their infrastructure capacity to meet growing demand for air transport. Economists often coin the saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch. The fact remains that someone or some entity must pay for the use of the infrastructure,” Gittens concluded.

Key industry facts for the 2015 financial year:

  • Global industry revenue year-over-year growth (2015/2014): 6%
  • Global industry revenue: US$151.8 billion
  • Revenue per passenger year-over-year growth (2015/2014): -0.5%
  • Distribution of global revenues: aeronautical (56%), non-aeronautical (39.8%) and non-operating (4.2%)
  • Global airport revenue per passenger: US$20.05
  • Global aeronautical revenue per passenger: US$11.23
  • Global non-aeronautical revenue per passenger: US$7.97
  • Total cost per passenger: US$15.58
  • Ratio of aircraft-related charges (33.3%) to passenger-related charges (56.1%) and other aeronautical revenues (terminal rentals) (10.6%): 37:63
  • Distribution of non-aeronautical revenue by key source: retail concessions (26%), car parking (22.6%) and property and real estate income or rent (15.7%)
  • Personnel cost share of operating expenses: 35%
  • Global debt-to-EBITDA ratio: 4.91
  • Industry net profit margin: 17.2%
  • Global return on invested capital: 6.4%
Notes for editors

1. Airports Council International (ACI), the trade association of the world’s airports, was founded in 1991 with the objective of fostering cooperation among its member airports and other partners in world aviation, including the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Air Transport Association and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation. In representing the best interests of airports during key phases of policy development, ACI makes a significant contribution toward ensuring a global air transport system that is safe, secure, efficient and environmentally sustainable. As of January 2017, ACI serves 623 members operating 1,940 airports in 176 countries.

2. The Airport Economics Survey generated responses from 827 airports for the 2015 financial year. Together, these airports handled 73% of worldwide passenger traffic in 2015. Objectives of the sampling were three-fold. The primary objective was to maximize participation and coverage of the world’s top airports in terms of passenger and cargo traffic. In order to introduce analytical variation and rigour to the data set, the participation of airports with lower traffic levels was considered an important factor in developing the sample. Finally, regional representation was regarded as a vital component in presenting a global picture of the industry.

3. Individual airport financial data was submitted in 63 different currency denominations and converted into US Dollars (US$) using official exchange rates. The exchange rate was calculated as an annual average based on monthly averages and expressed as local currency units relative to the US$. The financial figures for the previous year (2014) were adjusted by the inflation rate, defined as the change in average consumer prices. Inflation rates and exchange rates were obtained from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Databases and International Financial Statistics.The use of quantifiable barometers of industry activity must always be used cautiously.

4. Learn more on, or order the ACI Airport Key Performance Indicators.

5. View the ACI Airport Key Performance Indicators infographic.

6. Download the PDF version of this Press Realease

Media contact
Sabrina Guerrieri
Manager, Communications
ACI World
Telephone: +1 514 373 1223
Anita Berthier
Manager, External Relations and Special Events 
ACI World 
Telephone: +1 514 373 1254 
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Year-over-year percentage changes (% YOY) are calculated from a representative sample.