Last updated: 12:00 PM ET, Mon November 23 2015

Asia Pacific and Middle East Airports Experience Record Growth

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | November 23, 2015

Asia Pacific and Middle East Airports Experience Record Growth

In general, more people, all around the world, are flying. We’ve heard airport insiders talk about the need to expand terminals and build more runways to deal with a significant rise in air traffic in the next decade or two. Airports in the Asia Pacific region and the Middle East seem to be experiencing the first wave of this passenger surge right now. 

Gradual growth worldwide, exponential growth in Asia

Actually, on average, the world’s air hubs have seen a significant spike in passenger numbers this year. The number of international fliers around the globe grew by 6.2 percent between January and September of 2015 (compared to the same period in 2014). The percentages were quite a bit higher in two regions: the Asia Pacific and the Middle East. Overall, there was an 8.3 percent rise in the number of international air travelers in the Far East. The first nine months of 2015 saw a traffic increase of 11.7 percent for Middle Eastern hubs. 

Two of the Arabian Peninsula’s main airports saw robust growth in the late summer and early autumn. Dubai’s international traffic grew by more than 8 percent, while its main rival, Abu Dhabi, showed an 18 percent increase when the final tallies for September were released recently. The biggest surprise in the region (and perhaps in the entire world) was the September number posted by Doha’s airport.

The tiny nation of Qatar has made a big push to become a higher profile tourist destination and air travel hub. The effort looks like it is starting to pay off. Qatar Airways was rated the best carrier in the world overall by Skytrax earlier this year and, in September, Doha International Airport saw a 21.4 percent rise in traffic compared to a year ago. 

Smaller airports, bigger gains

There were also some unexpected results in East Asia. The biggest September growth compared was posted by Don Mueang in Bangkok. Despite no longer being the main international airport in Thailand, this aging-but-still-busy hub has seen more traffic as a result of the low-cost-carrier boom. September passenger numbers were up 31.8 percent compared to 2014. Two other smaller airports posted growth percentages of more than 20 percent: China’s Kunming International and Japan's Osaka Kansai. 

Not everyone is growing at the same rate

One of the Asia Pacific’s most well-known hubs, Singapore Changi, hasn’t really caught the passenger wave that is sweeping through other airports on the continent. The Southeast Asian hub has posted about 2 percent growth thus far this year. The slower growth is being blamed on the regions low cost carriers, which have been scaling back service for the past year. However, new international service to Europe, India and China have Changi hoping that it will not be left in other airports' wake for long. 

Except for a few lulls, the number of international fliers has been steadily increasing since the start of the Jet Age. The 2015 stats are the first sign that this gradual uptick might turn into an exponential increase in the near future. The September stats should help airport commissions get the necessary funding to start expansions and upgrades that some industry insiders have been calling for for the past couple of years. 


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