Airports handled fewer passengers worldwide in 2009


By Roger Yu, USA TODAY

Air traffic worldwide fell 1.8% last year to 4.8 billion arriving and departing passengers, according to a report last week by the Airports Council International. The decline was more pronounced in North America (down 5.2%) and Europe (down 5.4%). But the emerging markets in the Middle East (up 7.7%), Asia-Pacific (up 4.9%) and Latin America-Caribbean (up 1.5%) maintained growth.
By Doug Kanter, Bloomberg News A guard's image is reflected at Bejing Capital, the only top 10 airport to see more fliers in 2009.
By Doug Kanter, Bloomberg News A guard's image is reflected at Bejing Capital, the only top 10 airport to see more fliers in 2009.

Intra-country traffic was flat around the world, but international traffic dropped 3.9%, ACI says, based on data from 1,350 airports.

About 62% of airports lost traffic, at an average rate of 6.5%. Of the 10 largest airports worldwide, Beijing Capital International was the only one that reported growth in passengers. Its passenger count grew 17% in 2009. Tokyo Haneda reported the steepest decline, with traffic down 7.2%.

“During the first half of the year, overall traffic continued to spiral downward due to the impact of deepening economic uncertainty, falling industrial production and falling GDP,” says Angela Gittens, director general of ACI World. “The midyear months ushered in the glimmer of a rebound.”

In particular, domestic traffic in key emerging markets — China, Brazil and India — expanded in the second half, which was a precursor of returning international traffic, it says.

Gun? What gun? Oh, that gun

On average, two guns are discovered a day at airport security checkpoints nationwide, the Transportation Security Administration says.

“From time to time, things show up at airports that cause us to scratch our heads,” the agency says in an entry last week on its blog, which was prompted by 10 guns being found on Aug. 3.

Travelers’ most common response is that they had no knowledge that the gun was in the bag, it says. “One man even threw his wife under the bus and claimed she must have left it in there when she was packing his bag.”

Scariest airports

Four U.S. airports made SmarterTravel’s list of the world’s scariest airports for takeoff and landing: Nantucket Memorial Airport in Nantucket, Mass.; Yeager Airport in Charleston, W. Va.; New York LaGuardia; and John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Calif.

The frequent fog and low ceilings make flying difficult at Nantucket Memorial, forcing pilots to rely solely on instruments, SmarterTravel says.

Yeager Airport, built on a flattened mountaintop, has a relatively short runway that ends at a hillside. LaGuardia’s main runways were extended over water and arriving planes must navigate traffic in one of the world’s busiest airspaces.

Pilots at John Wayne Airport get around its strict noise-reduction requirements by taking off and inclining quickly and steeply.

Also making the list: Gibraltar Airport in Gibraltar; Toncontin International Airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Paro Airport in Paro, Bhutan; Barra Airport in Barra, Scotland; La Aurora International in Guatemala City; and Wellington International in Wellington, New Zealand.

Briefly …

•Marriott International has opened a hotel easily accessible to travelers at Atlanta Hartsfield. Travelers can reach the 403-room Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway on a two-minute skytrain ride.

•Dubai’s Al Maktoum International, which hopes to become the world’s largest airport after it opens for passenger traffic in 2011, is considering a one-stop passenger-processing center designed by German firm Siemens, according to Bloomberg News. The center would include check-in, security, customs and immigration facilities.

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