Many airports across China and other parts of Asia experienced a surge in passenger traffic as compared to the previous year, when the Chinese New Year fell during the month of February. While lower fare offerings continued to act as a stimulus, holiday travel in January was also facilitated by the Gregorian New Year falling on the weekend.
International travel continued to post relatively higher growth than domestic travel, with an increase of 9.4% and 6.5% respectively for the month of January. Except for Africa, where remnants of the Nigerian recession persist and where weak transport demand in Northern Africa continues, all regions reported strong gains in passenger traffic.
Most of the buoyant activity in passenger traffic stemmed from double-digit growth rates in the Asia-Pacific region, with gains of 11.5% for the month of January. Both Chinese and Indian airports have some of the fastest growing domestic markets on the globe. Guangzhou (CAN) and Shanghai (PVG), two of the largest Chinese commercial airports, experienced a growth rate in total passenger traffic of 17.0% and 11.3% respectively. Delhi (DEL), the busiest Indian airport, increased 21.0% in January. The Middle East region followed with an increase of 9.3% in passenger traffic. Major airports such as Doha (DOH) continued to make large strides in traffic.
Despite strong gains in January, there remained consistency in passenger traffic growth rates across some key emerging markets. In Latin America and the Caribbean, Mexico remained a burgeoning market. Both Mexico City (MEX) and Cancun (CUN), two of the region’s busiest airports, saw passenger traffic increase 13.3% and 12.6% respectively. On the other hand, Brazil remained in a weakened recessionary state, as passenger traffic contracted 5.7% at Sao Paulo (GRU), the country’s busiest airport. Most of this drop is attributed to GRU’s domestic decline which saw passenger numbers drop 8.4%.
With the UK being one of the largest aviation markets in the world, its exit from the European Union begs the question as to what impact this will have on the sector and the European single aviation market. Nonetheless, the strengthening of macroeconomic fundamentals across many European economies and the expansion of the low cost carrier business model, allowed business in Europe to continue as usual. Airports in the region saw an overall increase of 9.0% in passenger traffic for the month of January. Irrespectively, pockets of weakness still persisted in non-European Union markets. Political strife in Turkey continued to hamper its recovery. Turkish passenger traffic at airports such as Istanbul (IST) saw traffic contract 12.6% in January.
Following on the aftermath of the American election, the North American economy continued to benefit from strong consumer spending which further fueled gains in passenger traffic for the near term. North American passenger traffic grew 3.7%, representing a strong gain given its mature market status.
Heightened business confidence through inventory build-ups and increased export orders remained apparent for the near term, despite the looming uncertainty of trade policies in the face of protectionist sentiments that swept many countries. The political uncertainty in the second half of 2016 waned. While air freight volumes continued to gain momentum, with a spillover effect in 2016, the Chinese New Year, which had a tremendous impact on air freight shipments distorted the figures and year-over-year comparisons. Volumes as a whole increased 5.7% in January. International freight volumes continued to post relatively higher growth with an increase of 9.5%, whereas domestic traffic dropped 2.8% for the month of January. Again, this drop in domestic traffic was largely the result of business closures in the Asia-Pacific region during the Chinese New Year.