A Slowdown in the US domestic-passenger market has left its mark on mid-year figures from the world airports, despite a continuing boom in the European and Asia Pacific regions.

Airport passenger numbers continued to grow at a relatively steady rate of 4.7% around the world during the first half of this year, according to the Airports Council International (ACI). That is down on the 6-7%growth rates in 1996.

Largely to blame is a tail-off in the dominant North American market, which accounts for half of the world's airport traffic. Growth there is now running at less than 3%, compared with more than double that in 1996.

Passenger numbers in Europe continued to grow at a heady 6.7%, led among the major airports by a hike of more than 13% from Amersterdam's Schiphol. Paris Charles de Gaulle also turned in 9%growth, but that came from a similar fall at neighbouring Orly. London Heathrow growth picked up 4%, achieved without any apparent increase in movements.

Asia/Pacific managed a similar 6.7% rise in passenger growth, with good performances from Bangkok and Singapore (overtaking Tokyo Narita) as well as double-digit growth from Seoul.

The strongest passenger growth was reserved for the African and Latin American regions, where ACI reports growth of around 8%.

Cargo tonnages have also continued to gather momentum, rising by 7.6% worldwide. North American and European trade remained buoyant, but Asia/Pacific stole the show with a 14% hike over the first half-year.

First-half figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) suggest that airlines are making the most of the steady rise in passenger traffic, with load factors running at around 1.5 percentage points above 1996's already near-peak levels.

Source: Flight International