Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is still on top of the world’s air passenger traffic rankings, maintaining stability as the growth rate of its closest competitor, Beijing, slowed considerably.
Atlanta handled 95,513,828 passengers in 2012, up 3.4 percent from the previous year. That was only a little lower than Beijing Capital Airport’s 4.1 percent growth rate, which put the Chinese airport at 81,929,359 passengers, according to the World Airport Traffic Report from Airports Council International.
A few years ago, the Beijing hub seemed poised to dethrone Hartsfield-Jackson, but its ascent might have hit a wall this year. Not only did growth at Beijing Capital slow by one-third in 2012, but the city is also planning to build what would be the largest airport in the world.
Atlanta, on the other hand, doesn’t even have a feasible location for a second airport, according to a 2011 study conducted by Hartsfield-Jackson.
Worldwide, traffic growth was up 4.4 percent to 5.7 billion passengers. Europe and North America posted moderate increases of above 1 percent each, while strong growth was registered in emerging markets like Latin America (7.6 percent), Asia-Pacific (8 percent) and the Middle East (13 percent).
Dubai International Airport’s passenger figures grew 13.2 percent in 2011, helping the emirate crack the top 10 in passengers for the first time.
Jakarta, Indonesia, took the No. 9 spot with a 12.1 percent growth rate to 57,772,762 passengers even as it competed with other Southeast Asian powerhouses in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
While buoyed by emerging markets in 2012, growth in worldwide passenger traffic is projected to slow in 2013, according to Rafael Echevarne, ACI World’s director of economics and program development.
“Overall, the traffic outlook for 2013 is not encouraging. Although passenger traffic in 2013 is expected to grow, emerging markets in the BRIC countries are beginning to experience slowed growth,” Mr. Echevarne said in a statement. “Combined, the austerity measures and high unemployment in Europe as well as the turbulent recovery in the United States mean that the overall growth rate in passengers is expected to be well below 5 percent.”
By aircraft movements – takeoffs and landings – Hartsfield-Jackson also stayed on top with 930,310, beating out Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which posted 878,108 movements.
Hong Kong International Airport was the top cargo airport in the world in 2012, edging out Memphis. They both handled more than 4 million metric tons.