ACI’s 2020 traffic rankings reveal Covid-19’s damaging effect on world’s busiest airports

Figures show that domestic travel is slowly recovering, with international routes still falling behind due to the current restrictions

Airports Council International (ACI) World has published its global traffic rankings – including passenger numbers, cargo volumes and aircraft movements – for 2020, which highlight the impact of the pandemic on the world’s busiest hubs.

According to the data, China’s Guangzhou Baiyun International recorded the most travellers, followed by Atlanta/Hartsfield Jackson in the US.

Overall, global passenger traffic at the top ten busiest hubs declined by 45.7% in 2020. Domestic travel is beginning to take a positive turn, whereas worldwide journeys remain enervated due to the current restrictions.

Hartsfield Jackson Airport
Photo Flickr/Chad Davis 

“The data published today reveals the challenge airports continue to face and it remains imperative that the industry is supported through direct support and sensible policy decisions from governments to ensure that aviation can endure, rebuild connectivity, and fuel a global economic recovery,” explains Luis Felipe de Oliveira, ACI World director.

“With some positive signs of recovery, especially in countries with high rates of vaccination, a sustained global recovery will only be realized with an escalation of vaccination campaigns, the continued development of digital health passes, and coordinated and cohesive policy support from governments.”

Air cargo has not been hit as hard by the pandemic, with volumes decreasing by only -8.9% last year. Freight volumes also grew by 3% at the top ten airports – representing around 28% of international capacity.

ACI has estimated that there were 58 million aircraft movements in 2020, a -43% drop compared with the previous year. The busiest hubs represent around 7% of global traffic and experienced a total decline of -34.3%.

De Oliveira stresses that “airports are economic generators” and therefore need substantial support from international governments to continue with recovery.