Kevin O'Toole/LONDON

Passenger traffic at the world's airports remains on target for annual growth of around 7%, according to half-year figures from the Airports Council International (ACI) industry body.

Over the first half of 1996, the growth in passenger numbers continued to accelerate, rising by another 6.6% to reach just short of 1.2 billion.

Welcoming the "healthy" half-year results, ACI director general Oris Dunham says that the figures "lend support" to the airline industry's own latest forecasts for sustained annual passenger growth of around 7% through to the end of the decade.

By contrast, cargo tonnages were up by only 4.8%, reversing their dramatic growth in the first half of 1995. Europe's airports, in particular, felt the slump with growth of only 3.8%, and the previously buoyant Asia/Pacific figures were little better. North American airports helped lead the way on passenger-traffic growth with a rise of more than 7%, underlining the traffic boom being reported by US airlines this year.

Atlanta Hartsfield Airport continued its climb up the rankings with a 16% rise in passengers and, with the impact of the Olympic Games in the city still to feed through, looks like coming close to beating Chicago O'Hare into top place as the world's busiest airport. The main West Coast airports at Los Angeles and San Francisco also continued strong growth

By contrast, Europe's traffic growth has begun to slow down this year, although it still managed to keep above 6%. Paris Charles de Gaulle recovered the ground lost in 1995 when France was beset by industrial unrest. Traffic was also buoyant in Italy, with 12.5% growth at Milan Linate and nearly 9% at Rome Fiumicino Airport.

London Stansted Airport put on some of the fastest growth, with passengers rising by close to one-third, putting it on course to beat the 4 million, passenger mark for the full year.

In the Asia/Pacific region traffic, the leaders continued to show double-digit growth, with the exception of Tokyo's domestic hub at Haneda, but in the region as a whole the rise stayed below 7%.

Source: Flight International