Home » Aviation, Breaking News » Air passenger, freight markets show resilience in face of shocks: ACI

From August to November 2018, airports saw overall stable but moderating passenger traffic growth following a strong 2017, while air freight volumes were erratic but resilient as the trade wars continued, says Airports Council International (ACI) World in its latest report.

Despite small monthly fluctuations, general passenger traffic growth between August and November last year was quite stable, hovering between 5% and 5.5%.

Broken down by month, in August, passenger traffic grew by 5.4% year-over-year. Domestic and international segments expanded 5.2% and 5.6%, respectively. Despite regional heterogeneity, with figures ranging from 3.7% to 7%, most regions performed well, standing close to the global industry figure.

In September, international and domestic segments grew 5.5% and 4.8%, respectively, year-over-year. Asia-Pacific’s results were marked by moderation, its passenger traffic gaining 3.4% versus 6.5% in August.

In October the international market grew 6.6% year-over-year compared to 4.6% for the domestic segment. Total industry growth reached 5.5%. Europe performed well, posting 6.8% in total traffic growth, well above Asia-Pacific (4.8%) and North America (3.6%).

ACI recorded a 5.0% increase in global passenger traffic in November as the year drew towards its conclusion. The international market grew by 6.8% year-over-year compared to 3.9% for the domestic.

By the end of November, the year-to-date result for passenger traffic was recorded at 6%. The international market had grown 6.7% over the year, compared to 5.4% for the domestic market.

Nearly all regions had robust year-to-date growth rates, with only the Middle East (2.1%) hovering below 5%. Asia-Pacific, despite a moderation in growth rates in the last four months, stood at 6.8% (from 8% in August). Europe and North America’s year-to-date had been stable for the last months at 6.2% and 5.1%, respectively, by November’s end.

“Following the strong results in 2017 during which passenger growth was recorded at 7.5%, it looks as if the industry will record similarly robust but moderating results in 2018,” said Angela Gittens, director general of ACI World.

Unpredictable air freight growth

On the other hand, air freight volumes showed significant volatility during the period August to November with year-over-year figures ranging from 3.7% in October to -0.3% in November. The gains produced by the industry in the first half of 2018 had been moderating since, with year-to-date growth reaching 3.6% in November.

The volatility in the market showed that the trade war between the world’s two largest economies had tested the industry in 2018 and the final impact on global supply chains remains uncertain, Gittens said.

In August 2018, total freight gained 2.3%. The domestic segment grew 5% year-over-year compared to the international segment’s 1.2%. The divergent growth between Asia-Pacific and North American markets, which had started to show in June of 2018, continued, with the two regions growing by 1.9% and 5.1%, respectively, year-over-year. Europe posted a mere 0.1% growth for August.

September’s freight results moderated to 1.6% growth year-over-year. Asia-Pacific lost 1.1% during the month, with Europe gaining 0.8% and North America continuing its robust growth at 4%. Global domestic freight expanded  by 3%, compensating for a 0.9% increase in the international segment.

The air freight market gained back some lost momentum in October, growing by 3.7% year-over-year. As with August and September, Asia-Pacific (2.6%) and Europe (1.9%) under-performed compared to North America (6.4%) during the month. The global industry’s domestic segment contributed 6.6% growth. The international segment reached 2.4%, an improvement over the four prior months.

In November 2018, the global air freight industry posted a decline for the first time since February 2016, losing 0.3% against a year prior. International freight lost 0.6% and the domestic segment gained 0.3%. North America posted a 0.9% increase in total freight, a significant shift from prior months for the region. Europe and Asia-Pacific declined year-over-year, posting -1% and -2.1%, respectively, in November.

Despite the volatility and moderation of the last months, year-to-date figures remained robust for the air freight industry. Total freight is set to grow by at least 3% by the end of 2018 (currently at 3.6%), with domestic freight hovering around 5%. International freight is standing at 3%, and could be around 2.7% by year’s end.

“Considering the events taking place in 2018, these figures do point to the industry’s impressive resilience to shocks,” said ACI.

Looking ahead to 2019, it said: “The outlook for the industry’s performance this year remains uncertain.”

The U.S. federal government’s partial shutdown, China’s tense diplomatic relationships with several major Western countries, the ongoing negotiations over UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, and the geopolitical tensions in the Middle East “all could have a significant impact on passenger and traffic growth in 2019.”

Photo: Kieron Thwaites

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