ACI World reports that global air passenger traffic grew markedly in April, with a 17.7% increase in international traffic to 143.3m passengers. Year-to-date international passenger numbers to the end of April 2011 now stand at 519.9m – an 8% increase over the previous period. Total global traffic rose by 11% to 303.3m for the month, with domestic passenger numbers increasing by 5.6% to 157.4m.
ACI is quick to point out that while European international traffic grew by 31% and domestic by 17%, these increases compare with April 2010 when the Icelandic ash cloud paralyzed wide parts of European aviation, shutting down air space and airports over several days.
ACI World Director Economics Andreas Schimm says: “This increase is a very positive result, particularly in light of the current situation in Japan, as well as in North Africa, and an erratic economic recovery. Year-to-date average global growth at 5.9% certainly provides a solid basis as well as an upbeat outlook for the rest of the year.”
While international traffic dropped by 5% in April 2010, it jumped by almost 18% in April 2011, bringing year-to-date growth of 8%. Easter holiday travel was a second factor contributing to that strong traffic increase, with holiday movements falling in the middle of April 2011, whereas Easter travel was split between March and April in 2010.
International passenger numbers grew by 31% to 76.471m in April, followed by the Asia Pacific region up 6% to 32.697m; North America plus 7.6% to 14.500m; The Middle East up 10.5% to 7.769m; Latin America and the Caribbean up 11.3% to 6.610m; and Africa down by 13.5% to 5.280m.
In terms of total numbers – including both international and domestic – Europe was up by 27.3% to 100.786m passengers, followed by Asia Pacific plus 4.9% to 85.947m; North America up 2.1% to 77.496m; Latin America and the Caribbean plus 15.5% to 22.560m; Africa down by 10.1% 8.403m; and the Middle East up by 10.7% to 8.156m.
Schimm adds: “This month’s spike represents more than just compensation for last year’s losses. When we compare back to April 2009, we still see that international traffic volumes rose by a strong 12%, an indicator of growth over and beyond the compensation for disruptive factors.”
STRONG INTERNATIONAL TRAFFIC FACTORS
As mentioned, European airports spearheaded monthly growth with an extraordinary 27.3%. Significantly, growth of more than 20% was reported by 61 out of 78 airports in the sample led by Helsinki (+58%). Major European hubs, including Amsterdam (+37%), Frankfurt (+31%), London Heathrow (+31%) and Paris (+29%) also registered hefty increases.
Meanwhile, at other end of the spectrum, airports in Asia Pacific and Africa suffered losses that held down overall results, with continuing instability in North Africa and the dramatic drops in Japanese traffic. Airports in Egypt, Japan, Tunisia and Bahrain saw their traffic plunge between 20% and 60% (Tokyo Narita -19.6%, Cairo -23.4%).
ACI adds that at 2.1%, growth remains marginal in North America – despite a 7.6% increase in international traffic. By contrast, Latin America/Caribbean (+15.2%) traffic soared with both domestic and international traffic growing double-digits.
Brazil is the key market, accounting for almost all of the growth alone helped by solid results in Argentina, Peru and Mexico. The Middle East reported its first double-digit monthly growth rate since November 2010, also in part due to the compensatory indirect ash cloud effect at airports such as Dubai (+13%) and Abu Dhabi (+15%).