Asian airports dominated gains in passenger numbers last year, with five hubs posting double-digit growth and Beijing narrowing the gap to world No. 1 Atlanta.
Jakarta was fastest-expanding among the top 30 terminals, growing traveler numbers 19 percent to 52.4 million, figures from Airports Council International show. Bangkok posted a 12 percent increase and Singapore, Guangzhou in China and Kuala Lumpur -- new to the ranking -- all exceeded 10 percent growth.
Atlanta, home to Delta Air Lines Inc., remained top after its passenger total rose 3.4 percent to 92.4 million, while Beijing had a 4.7 percent gain, to 77.4 million. London Heathrow displaced Chicago O’Hare to rank third after disruption from strikes and volcanoes decreased and Hong Kong entered the top 10 at the expense of Denver, though its freight-market lead shrank.
“Asia is not only where the growth is in terms of GDP and incomes, which fuel demand, but levels of investment there mean its airports are also able to accommodate the increase, which is not necessarily the case elsewhere,” said Chris Tarry, an independent aviation analyst in London.
Hong Kong last week backed plans for a HK$86.2 billion ($11 billion) third runway and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd. is adding a base for low-cost carriers at Kuala Lumpur. Beijing opened a terminal in 2008 bigger than all five at Heathrow, which is constrained by a government ban on a new runway.
Two other airports in the global top 30, both in Europe, achieved double-digit jumps; Istanbul entered the ranking after lifting numbers 16 percent, second only to Jakarta, on surging growth at Turk Hava Yollari AO or Turkish Airlines, and Amsterdam Schiphol posted a 10 percent increase to regain No. 4 spot in the region from Madrid, where traffic fell 0.4 percent.
Three other hubs saw numbers shrink -- Chicago, Houston and Tokyo Haneda, which handles the bulk of Japanese domestic traffic and suffered the biggest decline of all, 2.9 percent, following the earthquake and tsunami last March.
In the freight market, the amount of cargo handled at Hong Kong decreased by 4.7 percent to 3.97 million metric tons, keeping it ahead of Memphis, Tennessee, headquarters of FedEx Corp., where the volume was static at 3.92 million tons.
Across the 906 airports surveyed cargo volumes slipped 0.1 percent, versus a 4.9 percent increase in passenger traffic. Of the top 30 for freight, 11 suffered drops and only three, Doha in Qatar and Cologne and Leipzig, had double-digit gains, with the German advances aided by a night-flights ban at Frankfurt.
Outside of the top 30, New Delhi attracted about 22 percent more travelers and Rio de Janeiro almost 21 percent more.
In Europe, Barcelona posted near-18 percent growth to 34 million passengers, spurred by a terminal extension and flights from Ryanair Holdings Plc and EasyJet Plc. Moscow’s Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo hubs both achieved growth of about 16 percent.