EUROPE'S CONGESTED airports managed to overcome capacity constraints to post an 8% rise in passenger traffic during 1994, but the region's leading hubs at London and Paris warn that growth cannot be maintained without new infrastructure investments.

Although passenger growth within Europe was close to the world average, it was achieved with a rise of only 2% in the number of air-traffic movements, according to latest figures released by the Airports Council International (ACI).

"If the pace of growth continues as it did in 1994, we will not have the ability to meet the demand," warns Jean Fleury, president of the Aeroports de Paris, which runs Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly.

Plans for a third runway for CDG, have been frozen, by French transport minister Bernard Bosson. Orly, which has now been opened to a flood of outside-European airline services, has also run into growing objections to the increase in traffic, which have forced a limit in annual traffic movements.

British Airways is also preparing to fight its corner on construction of a fifth terminal at London Heathrow when the public hearings begin in May. "There is no sensible or logical alternative to Terminal 5 at Heathrow," says BA managing director Bob Ayling, admitting that the airport is "effectively full". The hearings are expected to drag on until mid-1996.

The airline plans to raise its passenger throughput at the airport by 47% over the next 15 years, by progressively increasing the average size of its fleet. The average aircraft size is due to rise from 147 to 214 seats by 2010. BA believes that the airport should be capable of handling 80 million passengers, of which it would take 40-45% (see Headlines).

The ACI figures show that the London and Paris airports are already yielding Europe's highest volumes of passenger and cargo traffic per aircraft movement - almost twice the volume of less-congested US hubs.

Elsewhere within the world, the US airports showed healthy passenger growth of 8.6%. Expansion was led by Atlanta, which takes over from Dallas Fort Worth as the world's second-busiest airport, and by Las Vegas, which knocked Boston Logan out of the US top ten.

The world's fastest passenger-growth came from the Korean capital Seoul, with a rise of nearly 20%. The performance was more than twice that of its regional competitors although figures are not yet available for Kansai or Haneda in Japan.

The North American and Pacific airports also led a boom in cargo traffic, which saw the tonnages being handled around the world grow by 12.7%.

Source: Flight International