HK still world’s busiest air cargo hub in 2022

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Busiest air cargo hub
ACI World director general Luis Felipe de Oliveira says the latest rankings are an important milestone in reaching pre-pandemic levels. He is optimistic that the reopening of China, the second-largest aviation market after the US, will bring an overall gain, both domestically and for international travel. Photo from Airport Authority Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong Airport retains its status as the world’s top air cargo hub for the third year despite its cargo throughput diving 16.4% y-o-y to 4.2 million metric tons in 2022
  • Global air cargo volumes in 2022 comprising freight and mail fell 6.7% y-o-y to nearly 117 million metric tons, down 1.7% from 2019
  • Resumption of international travel drives a 53.5% y-o-y global passenger traffic surge to nearly 7 billion people, or a 73.8% recovery from 2019 levels

Hong Kong International Airport remained the world’s busiest air cargo hub in 2022, its third year in a row at the top, even as its cargo throughput dropped 16.4% year on year to 4.2 million metric tons amid a general decline in global cargo volumes, according to the Airports Council International (ACI) World.

Montreal-based ACI World published last week the top 10 busiest airports worldwide for 2022, with some of the world’s largest airport hubs regaining past rankings as international traffic returns, marking an important milestone in air travel’s full recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

For 2022, global air cargo volumes comprising freight and air mail fell 6.7% y-o-y to nearly 117 million metric tons, down 1.7% from 2019, the company said.

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ACI World said volumes at the 10 airports considered as the busiest air cargo hubs – around 27% or 30.8 million metric tons of the global throughput in 2022 – lost 9.9% y-o-y in 2022 but gained 4.1% versus 2019 levels. It said the decline can be attributed to the ongoing geopolitical tensions and disruptions to global trade and supply chains.

HKIA’s 4.2 million m/t of air cargo were 12.7% lower than in 2019. The next busiest air cargo hub was Memphis International Airport with 4.02 million m/t, down 9.8% y-o-y. Anchorage Airport followed with 3.46 million m/t, down 4.3%. Shanghai Pudong Airport was fourth with 3.1 million m/t, down 21.7%, losing its No.3 spot to Anchorage, which recorded 3.46 million m/t.

Other airports in the top 10 were Louisville Airport in Kentucky, which logged 3.07 million m/t for fifth place; Incheon, Korea International Airport at sixth with 2.94 million m/t; and Taipei Airport with 2.54 million m/t for seventh spot.

Miami, Florida Airport rose four ranks to eighth with 2.50 million m/t; Los Angeles Airport fell to ninth from eighth previously at 2.49 million m/t, while Tokyo Narita recorded 2.40 for 10th.

Passenger traffic

Resumption of international travel drove global passenger traffic to surge 53.5% y-o-y to nearly 7 billion, or a 73.8% recovery from 2019 levels.

The top 10 airports for total passenger traffic, representing 10% of global traffic, jumped 51.7% from 2021, amounting to a 85.9% recovery from 2019 levels.

Holding their positions from 2021, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport handled 93.7 million passengers, up 23.8%, to remain at the top, followed by Dallas Fort Worth Airport with 73.4 million passengers, up17.5%, Denver Airport, 69.3 million passengers, up 17.8%), and Chicago O’Hare Airport, 68.3 million passengers, up 26.5%.

Airports reinstated in the upper ranks include Dubai Airport, which ranked fifth with 66.1 million passengers, up 127%; Istanbul Airport landing on seventh with 64.3 million passengers, a 73.8% surge; followed by London Heathrow Airport, Delhi Airport, and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport on eighth, ninth, and 10th spots, respectively.

The biggest jump was recorded by London Heathrow, which catapulted from 54th as borders reopened in March 2022 after two years of closures.

“The new top 10 busiest airports for passenger traffic reflect the resilience of the airport and aviation industry, and the eagerness of passengers to travel by air,” ACI World director general Luis Felipe de Oliveira said.

Oliveira said he is optimistic that the reopening of China, the second-largest aviation market after the US, will bring an overall gain, both domestically and for international travel.

Aircraft movements

2022 global aircraft movements are close to 89 million, constituting a gain of 20.4% from 2021 results. This represents a recovery of 82.5% from pre-pandemic levels (2019).

The top 10 airports for aircraft movements, representing close to 7% of global traffic (5.7 million movements), gained 11.4% from their 2021 results, recovering to 91.5% vis-à-vis their 2019 results (6.2 million in 2019).