The eastward shift and the world’s fastest-growing airports

Patrick Lucas by Patrick Lucas | Oct 9, 2019

Contributing author: Aram Karagueuzian, Senior Manager, Traffic and Economic Statistics, ACI World

Even with the strong gains made by smaller airports, the world’s largest hubs continue to make strides. While there were 16 airports with over 40 million passengers per annum (mppa) in 2008, this number had risen to a total of 54 airports by 2018. Collectively, these airports achieved a year-over-year passenger traffic growth of 5.1% in 2018. This level of growth is unprecedented, particularly since a significant proportion of the airports in this category are in the mature markets of North America and Europe.

The Asia-Pacific region, which is home to many emerging markets, has the largest share of hub-airport traffic, with 23 airports of more than 40 mppa. North America follows, with 17 mega-hubs (see Chart 1). In 2018, the 17 North American airports with over 40 mppa provided 31% of total large-hub traffic worldwide. Asia-Pacific’s large hubs have a 42% share of global traffic.

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Chart 1: Number of airports with >40 mppa by region (2008–2018)

Source: ACI World Airport Traffic Database, 2019

The world’s fastest growing airports

Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru located in Bengaluru, India

Most of the world’s fastest-growing airports are located in emerging markets, a significant proportion of them being in the Asia-Pacific region. Table 1 presents the fastest-growing airports with over 15 mppa in 2018.  As many as 12 of the fastest-growing top 30 airports in 2018 are located in either China or India. 5 of the top 30 are Indian. India’s move towards a more liberalized aviation market and the nation’s strengthening economic fundamentals have helped it become one of the fastest-growing markets with its traffic growing rapidly in a relatively short time. Bangalore (BLR) and Hyderabad (HYD), two fast growing hubs in India saw traffic jump up by 29.1% and 21.9% respectively, occupying the 1st and 3rd rank. Antalya International Airport (AYT), a major gateway to Mediterranean tourism and resorts in Turkey, saw traffic jump 22.1% in 2018 to place it in second rank after experiencing depressed traffic figures in 2016.

Aerial view of Vnukovo International Airport located in Moscow, Russia

Major Russian airports experienced significant gains in traffic following on the economic recession they experienced in 2016. Airports also received a boost in traffic numbers as a result of the FIFA World Cup, which took place in Russia during the summer of 2018. Vnukovo International Airport (VKO) and Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO), two airports serving the Russian capital, Moscow, saw traffic leap by 18.4% and 14.3% respectively in 2018.  Pulkovo Airport (LED), a smaller hub serving St. Petersburg, experienced an increase of 12.4% year-over-year as compared to 2017.

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Table 1: Top 5 fastest-growing airports with over 15 million passengers (2018)

Source: ACI World Airport Traffic Database, 2019
Suvarnabhumi Airport located in Bangkok, Thailand

From a longer-term perspective, from 2008 to 2018, 23 of the 30 fastest-growing airports are located in the Asia-Pacific region. After the opening of Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport (DMK) continued to grow significantly catering primarily to low cost carriers. Boasting one of the largest shares LCC passenger market, DMK grew 23.2% per annum from 2008 to 2018. Table 2 presents the top 5 fastest growing airports from 2008 to 2018.

Table 2: Top 5 fastest-growing airports with over 15 million passengers by CAGR (2008-2018)

Source: ACI World Airport Traffic Database, 2019

Rockford (RFD), an expansive air cargo hub in the Midwest United States, was the fastest-growing airport in 2018 for airports that handled more than 250,000 metric tonnes of air cargo. Positioning itself as an e-commerce freight hub for Amazon, the online retail giant, the airport’s traffic grew 56.6% in 2018 (see Table 3).

Table 3: Top 5 fastest-growing airports handling over 250,000 metric tonnes of air

Source: ACI World Airport Traffic Database, 2019
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), located in the Midwest U.S., grew 41%, for the period from 2008 to 2018, as Table 4 shows, making it not only one of the fastest-growing airports for cargo but also among the world’s largest in throughput (ranked 27th in the world in terms of air cargo volumes). Amazon, the online retail giant, has chosen this airport as a key hub in developing its distribution channels in tandem with CVG’s air cargo facilities. Other notables include Zengzhou (CGO), Ha Noi (HAN), Doha (DOH) and Istanbul (ISL), which all achieved double digit growth. As many as 20 out of the 30 fastest growing airports are located in the Asia-Pacific region with 10 of them located in China alone.

Table 4: Top 5 fastest-growing airports handling over 250,000 metric tonnes of air cargo by CAGR (2008-2018)

Source: ACI World Airport Traffic Database, 2019
Patrick Lucas

Patrick Lucas

Head, Airport Business Analytics, ACI World
An economist by profession, Patrick has over 17 years of experience in quantitative positions. He is responsible for several of ACI’s analytical outputs and has lead the authorship of ACI’s major flagship publications: the World Airport Traffic Report and the Airport Economics Report. He also oversees the production of ACI’s World Airport Traffic Forecasts and Airport Economics Key Performance Indicators. Lastly, Patrick delivers courses in Airport Economics as a member of ACI’s Global Training Faculty. Prior to joining ACI, Patrick worked for a United Nations statistical office where he contributed to major global reports aimed at monitoring economic and social progress.
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