Aviation article(s)
May 20, 2020

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) retained its top spot as the world's busiest cargo hub in 2019 despite disruptions from the protests in the city last year, according to statistics from Airports Council International (ACI).


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ACI revealed the top 20 airports for cargo traffic, passenger and aircraft movements and noted that combined 2019 and 2020 figures show "dramatic impact" of COVID-19.


Due to the challenging market conditions, ACI said the world's top 20 hubs recorded a 3.9% year on year decline in volumes last year with a combined 48 million metric tonnes of cargo handled.

HK, Memphis, Shanghai maintains top 3 spots


HKIA remains the largest air cargo hub, handling 4.8 million metric tons of cargo in 2019, but it experienced a decline in volume of 6.1% compared to 2018, ACI said.


Memphis Airport was in second place reporting a decline of 3.3% year on year to 4.3 million metric tons of cargo handled, while volumes at Shanghai Pudong — the third busiest cargo hub — was also lesser by 3.6% in 2019 to 3.6 million tonnes compared to 2018.


Louisville Airport and Incheon Airport came in the fourth and fifth spot with 2.79 million tonnes and 2.76 million tonnes, respectively.


The top 20 cargo hubs all experienced decline in volumes except UPS' home hub Louisville (up 6.4%), Doha, which is the base of Qatar Cargo (up 0.8%), and

Guangzhou, one of China's largest transport hub (up 1.7%).


“As for cargo, against a global economic backdrop that remained quite challenging, air cargo volume experienced a decline of 3.9% at the world’s top 20 airports as they handled a combined 48 million metric tons of cargo," ACI said in its report.


It noted that based on preliminary data, all three top cargo airports also experienced considerable declines in the first quarter of 2020 while Louisville Airport and Incheon recorded growth in cargo during the first stages of the COVID-19 outbreak. 


“This year will pose major and unprecedented challenges for the industry as the impacts of travel restrictions and lockdown measures introduced in response to the pandemic remain an existential threat to the aviation industry unless governments can provide appropriate relief and assistance,” said Angela Gittens, ACI World director-general.


Passenger volumes, aircraft movements


In terms of passengers, ACI said traffic at the world’s top 20 busiest airports grew by 1.7% in 2019 with Atlanta-Hartsfield-Jackson Airport maintaining the spot as the world's busiest airport in terms of passengers at 110.53 million. 


The ongoing COVID-19 crisis, however, has brought airports around the world to a virtual standstill, resulting in airport traffic and revenue losses across all regions. ACI World said it now estimates a reduction of more than 4.6 billion passengers and more than US$97 billion in revenue for 2020.


Meanwhile, aircraft movements grew by 1.5% in 2019 for the top 20 airports. Chicago O’Hare remained the busiest airport in the world for aircraft movements, with Atlanta-Hartsfield-Jackson Airport coming in a close second although both saw movements decrease in the first quarter of 2020.  

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