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Beijing set to dethrone Atlanta as world's busiest airport news
07 December 2011

The world's busiest airport by total passenger movements, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, continues to stay ahead of Beijing, the world's second busiest airport, according to data released by the Airports Council International (ACI). But, data also suggests that it's only a matter of time before there is a status change and Beijing takes over the number one spot.

A decade ago, Beijing Capital did not even rate among the world's top 30 airports, a list headed by Atlanta since 1998.

Also, this week, Tokyo Haneda surpassed London Heathrow as the world's third largest airport.

Atlanta saw a 5.3% decline in schedule frequency and 2.8% decline in seat capacity in Dec-2011, according to OAG FACTS data. Beijing, meanwhile, reported a 3.1% increase in frequency and 4.5% seat capacity growth in the month.

At present, Atlanta has around 94,000 more weekly seats, or 410,000 monthly seats (Dec-2011) than its Chinese counterpart (equating to a 5% difference in seats), despite Beijing Capital reporting stronger year-on-year growth rates in recent months.

Atlanta is also operating around 62% more frequencies in Dec-2011 than Beijing.

While capacity and frequency trends over the past decade highlight a stable upwards trend for Beijing and a weakening trend for Atlanta, Atlanta will still end the year as the world's largest airport, for the 14th consecutive year.

Meanwhile, the ACI in its October 2011 traffic release noted that passenger growth remains in resilient and positive territory despite the challenges in global markets. ''The looming risks in major currency markets and economies have not yet affected consumption patterns for air travel,'' ACI World's economics director Rafael Echevarne commented.

In Oct-2011, global passenger traffic increased by 2.3%, with growth of 3.3% in international markets and 1.5% on domestic sectors. On a year-to-date basis, passenger traffic has increased by 4.6%, with a 3.2% increase in domestic and a 6.1% strengthening in international markets.

London Heathrow, the world's third largest airport, has lost its third ranking to an Asian counterpart, with Tokyo Haneda operating more capacity (seats) than London Heathrow in the week ended 11-Dec-2011.

Top 15 airports by capacity (seats): 05-Dec-2011 to 11-Dec-2011
Rank Airport Total seats
1 Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport 2,014,720
2 Beijing Capital International Airport 1,920,985
3 Tokyo Haneda Airport 1,740,966
4 London Heathrow Airport 1,725,780
5 Chicago O'Hare International Airport 1,453,564
6 Frankfurt Airport 1,439,494
7 Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport 1,421,571
8 Dubai International Airport 1,385,356
9 Los Angeles International Airport 1,372,452
10 Hong Kong International Airport 1,364,755
11 Singapore Changi Airport 1,295,559
12 Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport 1,290,904
13 Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International 1,279,879
14 Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport 1,161,899
15 Guangzhou Baiyun Airport 1,149,088
Source: CAPA Centre for Aviation

ACI noted that in the Middle East, Abu Dhabi continued to be among the high growth airports in the region at 17.2%. Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), in late Nov-2011, stated it expects traffic to exceed 12 million passengers in 2011, with a year-on-year increase of 11% from 2010 levels.

ADAC is forecasting double-digit growth for the next few years. Passenger traffic for the first nine months of the year rose 9% year-on-year, to 9 million.

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Beijing set to dethrone Atlanta as world's busiest airport