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ACI World confirms global traffic figures for 2021


ACI World today published its annual World Airport Traffic Dataset, revealing the magnitude of the aviation industry’s recovery and confirming global air traffic rankings for the full year 2021.

“Following the release of preliminary data earlier in the year, we are pleased to share ACI’s complete annual World Airport Traffic Dataset,” said ACI World director general, Luis Felipe de Oliveira.

“It remains the authoritative source for global data on air transport demand across major city markets in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America-Caribbean, the Middle East, and North America. It is also the principal industry reference for air traffic rankings by type and region.

“Last year represents the beginning of the aviation industry’s recovery. While some of the perennial busiest airport leaders have re-joined upper ranks, other regions struggle to recover leading to new entrants in the top 20.

“With many countries taking steps towards the return of a certain normality, lifting almost all the health measures and travel restrictions as supported by science, we welcome the continuation of air travel demand’s recovery in 2022, despite certain headwinds.”

Passenger traffic

In 2021, the world’s airports accommodated 4.6 billion passengers, representing an increase of 28.3% from 2020 or a drop of 49.5% from 2019 results. The top 20 airports, representing 19% of global traffic (863 million passengers), experienced a gain of 42.9% from 2020 or a drop of 31.9% vis-à-vis their 2019 results (1.27 billion passengers in 2019).

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) with 75.7 million passengers (+76.4%) is back on the top of the 2021 rankings followed by Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), with 62.5 million passengers (+58.7%) and Denver (DEN), which handled 58.8 million (+74.4%).

From the top 20 rankings, almost all airports have significant domestic traffic representing 65% to 100% of their total passengers. The only exception is Istanbul International Airport (IST) with a larger international traffic share (72% of passenger traffic)

Air Cargo

ACI World’s figures show that air cargo volumes increased by 15.4% year-over-year (+4.5% versus 2019) to reach a record 125 million tonnes in 2021.

Air freight volumes in the top 20 airports, representing around 44% (54.8 million tonnes) of the global volumes in 2021, gained 14.7% in 2021 year-over-year or 13.4% versus 2019.

The gain can be attributed to improved economic conditions that drove an increase in demand for consumer goods and pharmaceutical products (such as personal protective equipment and vaccines).

Hong Kong (HKG) accommodated five million tonnes (+12.5%) to regain the top spot from Memphis (MEM), which handled 4.5 million tonnes ( -2.9%), followed by Shanghai Pudong (PVG) with four million tonnes (+8.0%).

Compared to pre-pandemic levels, the biggest jump in the top 20 rankings was recorded for Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD), which improved its position by seven spots, from 18th in 2019 to 11th in 2021.

Aircraft movements

According to ACI data, 2021 global aircraft movements totalled close to 74 million, representing a gain of 18.7% from 2020 results or -28.2% versus 2019.

The top 20 airports, representing 12% of global traffic (8.7 million movements), witnessed a gain of 27.9% from their 2020 results or a drop of 15.7% vis-à-vis their 2019 results (10.3 million in 2019).

ATL is at the top with 708 thousand movements (+29.1% from 2020) but still below its 2019 result of 904 thousand movements (-21.7%). ORD is still in second rank after leading ATL in 2019 and 2018.

ACI’s World Airport Traffic Dataset is the industry’s most comprehensive airport statistics dataset featuring airport traffic for over 2,600 airports in more than 180 countries and territories.

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