Beijing airport takes third place among world's busiest hubs

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 August, 2010, 12:00am

Beijing now has the world's third-busiest airport, surging past Chicago, Tokyo and Paris as the mainland shrugged off the global economic slowdown.

Beijing Capital International Airport's ranking puts it behind Atlanta and London's Heathrow in terms of domestic and international passenger numbers in 2009, according to a report by Airports Council International, a Geneva-based international airport association.

Passenger traffic rose 16.9 per cent year on year to 65.37 million last year at Beijing airport, which jumped five places to knock Chicago from the third place.

The facility may also oust Heathrow from the No2 spot later this year, reflecting the impact of industrial action by British Airways staff and a volcanic eruption in Iceland on air traffic to and from London.

In the first six months of this year, Beijing handled 35.05 million passengers, up from 30.1 million in the same period last year, while Heathrow's passenger volume shrank 3.5 per cent year on year to 30.1 million.

Hong Kong International Airport, which benefits from flights to and from the mainland but lacks any domestic traffic, overtook Amsterdam to be the third-busiest airport in terms of international passenger traffic. Heathrow and Paris are in first and second place respectively.

Last year, Hong Kong handled 44.98 million international passengers, down 4.6 per cent from a year earlier.

Frankfurt and Amsterdam ranked fourth and fifth, followed by Dubai and Singapore.

Hong Kong airport kept its No1 spot as the busiest airport for cargo, excluding mail, handling 3.35 million tonnes of cargo last year, even though that was down almost 8 per cent on 2008 traffic.

It was comfortably ahead of South Korea's Incheon airport, which moved 2.27 million tonnes, down 5 per cent year on year. Dubai grew 6.1 per cent to leap five places to third spot, with 1.85 million tonnes.

Memphis remains the largest domestic cargo hub in the world followed by Louisville.

China has the most robust growth in passenger demand. Among the 25 fastest-growing airports in the world, 17 are Chinese, including second-tier airports in Wuhan, Changsha, Sanya, Chengdu, Xian and Chongqing.

However, analysts have warned that the mainland air industry faces turbulence despite the growth in recent years. They said Beijing's massive investment in high-speed railways would eat into air traffic, threatening airline margins from 2012.

Moving up

The increase in passenger traffic handled by Beijing Capital International Airport last year, was: 19.6%