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Air traffic is on the rise in tandem with tourism worldwide. And similar to tourism, passenger growth was driven by emerging markets that made up for slow or stagnant growth in advanced economies.

Airports worldwide saw more than 5.7 billion passengers pass through their terminals in 2012, a 4.4 percent increase boosted by developing nations.

The 2012 World Annual Traffic Report by Airports Council International (ACI) collected data from 1,598 airports in 159 countries, which resulted in the following takeaways:

  • All six regions reported air traffic growth in 2012, but as the below chart outlines, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and Africa saw significant gains while Europe and North America reported very slight growth.
  • International traffic grew at nearly double the rate (+5.7 percent) of domestic air travel (+3 percent).
  • Air traffic was not evenly distributed throughout worldwide airports. Sixty-five percent of airports gained flyers  at an average rate of 7 percent, while 35 percent of airports lost air traffic at a rate of -4.3 percent.
RegionAircraft Movements% ChangePassengers% ChangeCargo% Change
Latin America-Caribbean8,390,6703.5444,399,1607.65,036,090-0.1
Middle East2,366,8706.3253,810,113135,865,0354.3
North America30,101,663-1.41,562,073,7261.328,138,3740.8

Forward-Looking Trends

Global passenger traffic grew 3 percent in the first five months of 2013, and ACI statistics predict that growth will not exceed or even hit the 4.4 growth rate attained in 2012.

The Middle East’s rapid growth will undoubtedly be impacted by conflict in Egypt and slowed economic growth of emerging nations including China, Brazil, and India. This combined with continued uncertainty in the U.S. and Europe indicates that air travel will increase, but at a slower pace than seen in 2012.

Photo Credit: A 14-meter wide 180-degree projection lets visitors to the flight control tower of the Lufthansa Brand Academy Frankfurt-Seeheim explore the navigable, real-time 3D visualization of 16,000 daily Lufthansa and Star Alliance flights. whitevoid / Flickr