The world’s aviation industry is continuing to face an “existential threat” as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic force a drop of passenger traffic of 64.6 per cent globally.
The data comes from Airports Council International (ACI) World, which has published its preliminary world aircraft traffic rankings, which shows that even the top 10 busiest airports saw a 45.7 per cent fall in passenger numbers.
It also shows that Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport beat Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport with 43.8 million passengers compared to 43 million.
The ranking was a reverse of last year, when Atlanta handled 110.5 million passengers compared to Guangzhou’s 73.4 million and represents falls of 61.2 per cent and 40.4 per cent respectively.
Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport came third with 40.7 million passengers, followed by Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Shenzhen Bao’n International Airport with 39.4 million and 38 million passengers respectively.
In total, seven Chinese and three US airports made it in to the top 10, although this year’s results have been skewed by the fact that China’s domestic aviation market has seen strong recovery since Covid-19 first emerged in the country, giving it more time to beat the pandemic. For instance, ninth placed Hongqiao International Airport was the 46th busiest airport in the world in 2019.
However, regardless of where airports were ranked by ACI World, its director general Luis Felipe de Oliveira said all airports are suffering greatly as international border closures severely limit the aviation sector.
He added: “The impact of the Covid-19 on global passenger traffic pandemic brought aviation to a virtual standstill in 2020 and we continue to face an existential threat.
“The data published today reveals the challenge airports continue to face and it remains imperative that the industry is supported through direct support and sensible policy decisions from governments to ensure that aviation can endure, rebuild connectivity, and fuel a global economic recovery.
“The findings show that the impact remains uneven with different regions experiencing different challenges and requiring different policy decisions and support from governments to lay the foundation for recovery.
“With some positive signs of recovery, especially in countries with high rates of vaccination, a sustained global recovery will only be realised with an escalation of vaccination campaigns, the continued development of digital health passes, and coordinated and cohesive policy support from governments.”
De Oliveira added there were about 58 million global aircraft movements in 2020, representing a drop of 43 per cent from 2019.
The top 10 airports represent 7 per cent of global traffic at 4.2 million aircraft movements and experienced a drop of 34.3 per cent compared to 2019.
Atlanta beat the winner of the previous two years, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, to take the top spot having recorded more than 548,000 aircraft movements.
However, none of this has been enough to help airports, the costs of which remain largely fixed, even with reduced operations.
De Oliveira said: “There is no denying the current economic realities – and the financial shortfall they create – that airports face.
“Airports are economic generators, bringing socio-economic benefits and jobs to the communities they serve, and governments need to provide the necessary financial alleviation and assistance to suit local circumstances.
“Airport operators also continue to work closely with their airline partners and other stakeholders balancing the current market realities with the cost of providing the infrastructure as they navigate the crisis together.”