Top 10 airports see 3% cargo growth, Memphis edges out HK

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Air cargo volumes in the top 10 airports grew by 3.0 per cent in 2020 according to Airports Council International (ACI) World’s preliminary world airport traffic rankings.

With a +6.7 per cent cargo growth to 4.6 million tonnes of total cargo throughput, Memphis International Airport – home to FedEx’s Superhub – surpassed Hong Kong International Airport (down -7.1 per cent to 4.47 million tonnes), as e-commerce demand pushed express delivery demand skyward.

In terms of international freight, Hong Kong still leads the pack with 4.42 million tonnes in 2020, down 6.0 per cent from a year earlier.

These top 10 airports represent around 28 per cent, or 30.6 million tonnes of the global volumes in 2020. Overall air cargo volumes decreased by -8.9 per cent as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, to an estimated 109 million tonnes in 2020, equivalent to 2016 levels (110 million tonnes).

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ACI says the growth at the top 10 can be attributed to the increase in demand for online consumer goods, pharmaceutical products and personal protective equipment.

Global passenger traffic at the world’s top 10 busiest airports decreased by -45.7 per cent in 2020. Overall, passenger traffic at the world’s airports decreased by -64.6 per cent which shows that the impact of the pandemic and the early stages of recovery in air travel has not been uniform around the world.

ACI World estimates that there were 58 million global aircraft movements in 2020, representing a drop of -43 per cent from 2019.

The top 10 airports represent 7.0 per cent of global traffic (4.2 million movements) and experienced a drop of -34.3 per cent compared to 2019. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport surpassed Chicago O’Hare International Airport, after leading in 2019 and 2018.

ACI notes that for airports, revenues are tightly correlated to traffic levels but, like many other capital-intensive businesses, a large proportion of airport costs remain largely fixed and do not fall at the same level as traffic throughput and revenues during the crisis. Even with reduced operations, the closure of terminals and staff layoffs, this imbalance remains.

“There is no denying the current economic realities – and the financial shortfall they create – that airports face,” Luis Felipe de Oliveira says.

“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.”

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