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ACI: Robust growth in passenger traffic for May; strengthening global economy fuels growth in air freight

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Global passenger traffic rose a robust 6.2% in May year over year, in line with the year to date growth of 6.5%. The main growth driver remained international passenger traffic, which reached 8.1% year over year.

At the regional level, Europe and Asia-Pacific posted the highest passenger traffic increases at 8.2% and 7.9% respectively. Europe’s main growth driver, as with the global market, was the increase in international passengers at 9% year over year compared to its domestic component at 6.1%. The Russian Federation, Portugal and the Netherlands contributed significantly to this growth, posting rates of 21.3%, 16.8% and 9% respectively.

Asia-Pacific’s growth was distributed more evenly between international (7.7%) and domestic (7.9%) passenger traffic. Indian and Chinese airports continued to contribute to the region’s sustained expansion despite Beijing (PEK), the largest airport in the region, experiencing slower growth. The Middle East experienced a significant slowdown in May 2017 compared to a year prior, posting a 4.1% increase in May 2017 versus 11.4% in May 2016. The ban on personal electronic devices on flights from Middle Eastern and Northern countries, in place between March and July, may have hindered traffic gains in the affected States.

After a period of economic uncertainty regarding the United States trade policy and risks related to the United Kingdom’s vote to withdraw from the European Union, global commerce is no longer sidelined. The rise in business confidence translated into a robust recovery in air freight volumes in 2017, increasing by 11.1% year over year in May. All regions demonstrated high growth during that period, but Europe and North America presented the highest increases, with growth rates of 12% and 11.9% respectively.

Freight traffic numbers in North America were boosted by their largest freight hubs. Four of their top five airports in terms of cargo volume, representing 43.2% of total cargo in 2016, posted double digit growth. Anchorage (ANC), Louisville (SDF), Miami (MIA) and Los Angeles (LAX) all experienced increases between 11% and 13%. Memphis (MEM), the largest freight hub of the region, grew 1.3%. Domestic freight played an important role in that increase, surging 9.1% in May after a period of stunted growth, illustrated by the 1.7% year to date results.

In Europe, Istanbul (IST) continued on its recovery, posting 21.1% increase in total freight traffic. Other freight hubs such as Amsterdam (AMS), London-Heathrow (LHR), and Leipzig (LEJ) also showed high growth at 12.3%, 10.6% and 9.1% respectively.

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