ACI report: Global passenger traffic market growth continues to moderate in 2019

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Airports Council International (ACI) World reports that global passenger traffic grew by +2.3 percent in October, slightly less than the +2.6 percent rate recorded in September. The figure remained in line with the moderation pattern observed since June, since which growth rates for the industry have hovered between +2 percent and +3 percent. Year-to-date growth was recorded as +3 percent with only two months left to examine in 2019. Against a global economic backdrop that remains quite challenging, the decline in the global air freight industry continued in October, falling by -2.9 percent on a year-over-year basis. This was a slight improvement over September’s figure of -4 percent and was quite close to the industry’s year-to-date result which stands at -3 percent.

Airports Council International World’s Director General Angela Gittens.

“A weakened freight industry and a moderation in passenger traffic growth was recorded in October which was mostly a continuation of the general trend in 2019,” ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said. “The domestic freight market managed a slight recovery but with the volatile trade environment still present in the global stage, end-of-year results could go either way. The possibility of a decline in total freight volumes by year’s end, due primarily to international freight performance, however, is fairly assured.”

Passenger traffic: Following September, during which the gap between the two seemed to narrow, the international passenger market’s growth once again outpaced the domestic market substantially in October. International passenger growth reached +3.2 percent during the month, with year-to-date reaching +4.2 percent. Domestic passenger growth was much lower, at +1.5 percent, bringing year-to-date to +2.1 percent.

North America was once-again the best-performing major market in October, posting a +3.2 percent year-over-year growth rate. Its year-to-date stood at +3.5 percent, in line with its domestic market’s +3.5 percent, which has remained relatively strong in a context where global growth is only +2.1 percent.

Europe only gained +2 percent during the period, just below its September’s +2.1 percent figure. The region’s year-to-date growth stood at +3.4 percent, driven by a particularly resilient international passenger segment.

Asia-Pacific performed the worst of the three major markets. It grew +1.1 percent on a year-over-year basis in October, maintaining its +1.7 percent year-to-date growth with two months left to the year. The region’s domestic market, with strong links to its major markets such as China, India and Japan, only gained +0.2 percent during the month. Now standing at +0.4 percent on a year-to-date basis, the segment is vulnerable to fall into negative territory by the end of the year.

Africa continued to post robust gains in October. Although the month’s +5.2 percent was slower than September’s +6.7 percent, continuing a downtrend started a few months back, its year-to-date growth remains at +6.9 percent, and should once again be the top-ranking region for growth in 2019.

The Middle East and Latin America-Caribbean posted relatively robust figures given the global backdrop in October, gaining +5.2 percent and +3.1 percent respectively. Year-to-date results remained subdued for the Middle East, at +2.2 percent, while Latin America-Caribbean stood at +3.9 percent, second only to Africa at this point.

Freight volumes: October figures showed a slight improvement over September for the freight industry, with the domestic segment posting positive growth during the period. Global freight volumes declined by -2.9 percent but the domestic market reached +0.7 percent on a year-over-year basis, maintaining year-to-date results in the positive, at +0.6 percent. As with September, Europe experienced the least significant decline among the major markets in October. The region’s freight volumes declined by -1.4 percent, bringing its year-to-date figure to -2.7 percent.

North America performed similarly on a year-over-year basis, declining by -1.5 percent. Its year-to-date growth rate remained higher, however, at -0.3 percent with two months left to the year. The region’s domestic market remained in the positive, at +2.9 percent on a year-to-date basis, but its international market is now drawing closer to the decline experienced by Asia-Pacific, at -4.9 percent. The latter fell by -4 percent in October, bringing its year-to-date growth rate to -5.5 percent. Both the domestic and international segments remained in the negative in Asia-Pacific, though its international freight market suffered the brunt of the losses, reaching -6.2 percent on a year-to-date basis.

Africa, the Middle East and Latin America-Caribbean all posted declines in October. The results were less severe than in September for the first two, however, with these regions declining by -3.4 percent and -4 percent respectively. Latin America-Caribbean performed much worse, losing -8 percent on a year-over-year basis. By the end of the month, all of these regions stood at a negative rate for the first ten months of the year; Africa reached -0.2 percent, while the two other regions were both at -3.1 percent.

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Matthew Driskill is the Editor of Asian Aviation and is based in Cambodia. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.

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