ACI World: Intl traffic up 4.1% in 2019 as world’s airports handle 9.1bn pax

By Luke Barras-hill |


Global passenger traffic increased by 3.5% year-on-year to 9.1 billion in 2019.

Airports Council International (ACI) World has published its World Airport Traffic Report (WATR) revealing performances for passenger traffic, cargo and aircraft movements.

The dataset, based on an analysis of 2,565 airports in 180 countries, shows global airports handled 9.1 billion travellers last year – an increase of +3.5% year-on-year.

Growth in international passenger traffic (+4.1%) outstripped that of domestic passenger traffic (+2.4%), although overall traffic growth was the smallest year-on-year since 2009.

ACI World says the most ‘comprehensive data coverage’ it has recorded reveals that aviation’s ‘centre of gravity’ continued to shift eastward in 2019, with many of the world’s largest growing airports located in Asia.


Eight of the 30 fastest-growing airports handling more than 15 million passengers were situated in China and Vietnam.

“The airports industry was experiencing a period of sustained passenger traffic growth in 2019 but, despite this consistent growth, we are now facing the worst crisis the industry has ever confronted, with crippling losses in passenger traffic and revenues due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira.

ACI Europe last week reported a 93% decline in passenger traffic across the region’s airport network in June year-on-year, handling 16.8 million passengers versus 240 million in the same month last year.

ACI World WATR data 2019

FY19 versus FY18 data. The WATR dataset ranks and assesses air transport demand across principal markets. Click to enlarge. Source: ACI World.

Due to the slower-than-expected recovery in passenger traffic, ACI Europe has forecast that a full recovery to 2019 levels is now expected for 2024, rather than in 2023 as previously anticipated.

“We are positive about the future of the industry because the connectivity we provide and the benefits for business and tourism represent a crucial part of the global economic recovery,” said de Oliveira.

“In 2019, global air service growth remained consistent and resilient but the continuing impact of protectionism and trade wars on international air transport services was looming as the main challenge to growth in the short term. No one could have predicted that a global pandemic would bring the aviation industry to a standstill.

“Airports in some regions are making tentative steps towards recovery – in cooperation with airlines and their partners in the aviation ecosystem – but a recovery to the levels of success seen in of 2019 will be a long and difficult journey.

“Aviation is a key driver of local, regional and national economies, and direct government financial relief and assistance is urgently needed to protect operations, safeguard jobs, and support the industry’s recovery.”


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