World in motion: ACI News

The world’s busiest airports in 2023, Airport Service Quality (ASQ) customer experience excellence, and a call for greater funding to help Europe’s airports decarbonise.

ACI World news: The top 10 busiest airports on the planet in 2023

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta (ATL) maintained its status as the world’s busiest airport in 2023, the 104.6 million passengers that passed through its facilities leaving all others in its wake.

Dubai International (DXB) was the second busiest gateway, welcoming 86.9 million passengers during the year to finish ahead of third placed Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), despite an impressive 11.4% rise in traffic at the Texas gateway.

ACI World’s highly anticipated preliminary top 10 busiest airports worldwide for 2023, showcase significant shifts driven by the resurgence of international air travel.

The global total passenger forecast for 2023 stands close to 8.5 billion, reflecting a remarkable recovery of 93.8% from pre-pandemic levels. Notably, international traffic recovery drew nearer to that of domestic traffic, emphasising its essential role in propelling the industry’s resurgence and expansion.

The influx of passengers at international airports has been central in bolstering the recovery of hubs reliant on this segment, consequently influencing the composition of the top 10 busiest airports for total passengers.

ACI World director general, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, said: “Global air travel in 2023 was chiefly fuelled by the international segment, propelled by several factors. Among these were the anticipated benefits from China’s reopening and a growing inclination towards travel despite macroeconomic conditions.

“While perennial leaders from the US continue to dominate the top 10 busiest airports for passengers, notably Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport retaining its number one position, there are notable shifts.

“Dubai International Airport jumped to second rank for the first time, while Tokyo Haneda International Airport witnessed a remarkable ascent from 16th position in 2022 to 5th in 2023. Additionally, the unwavering strength of Istanbul and New Delhi airports keep them in top ranks, marking significant progress over 2019.

“Notably, cargo continues to play a key role in world commerce despite the year-over-year decrease. Hong Kong International Airport has maintained the top position, followed by Memphis International Airport and Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Doha International Airport rejoins the top 10, jumping to number 8 with a growth of 6.3% over 2019.

“The rankings highlight the crucial role these transportation hubs play in global connectivity, commerce, and economic development. Airports continue to demonstrate their resilience and adaptability amidst the challenges posed by the ever-evolving landscape of global travel. ACI World remains dedicated to advocating for airports worldwide throughout pivotal stages of policy formulation and to advancing the pursuit of airport excellence.”

Airport rankings are based on data gathered from over 2,600 airports across more than 180 countries and territories globally. This vast dataset places ACI World in a distinctive position as the foremost authority on airport travel demand, ensuring the utmost accuracy and reliability in its rankings.

Simply the best: the world’s customer experience champions

Between them 90 airports received a total of 170 awards in ACI World’s Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards for the best customer experience at airports worldwide in 2023.

For the first time ever over 400 airports participated in the annual customer experience programme, with the results based on the feedback of 595,000 passenger surveys conducted in all four quarters of the year.

Categories for the Departures Survey included Best Airports by Size and Region, Most Dedicated Staff, Easiest Airport Journey, Most Enjoyable Airport, and Cleanest Airport. While the Arrivals Survey had just one category, The Best Airport at Arrivals Globally, and was awarded to the three airports with the top 20% overall satisfaction scores at arrival – Bengaluru-Kempegowda and Thiruvananthapuram in India and Zayed (Abu Dhabi) in the UAE.

You can read more about the winners and their reaction to their awards on pages 36-38 of this issue.

Reflecting on the results, ACI World director general, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, said: “The global growth of the programme underscores the trust placed in its scientific and live approach, making ASQ the go-to standard for airport customer experience assessment in the aviation industry.

“The future success of airports hinges on the unwavering commitment to delivering a stellar customer experience at every touchpoint. In an era where passenger expectations are evolving rapidly, excellence in customer service isn’t just a goal; it’s the key to ensuring airports remain not just gateways, but memorable destinations in themselves.”

Sharing his insights on the succcess of Latin America and Caribbean airports in the ASQ Awards, ACI-LAC director general, Dr Rafael Echevarne, noted: “These awards highlight the dedication and excellence of airports in Latin America and the Caribbean in providing a superior customer experience.

“The commitment shown by these airports is commendable and sets a high standard for the industry.”

ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East notes that a total of 31 airports from across their region – 27 airports from Asia-Pacific and 4 from the Middle East – received ASQ Awards. Among the 11 Indonesian airports recognised, Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport and Yogyakarta International Airport have both won five out of six award categories. Oman’s Salalah Airport topped among the Middle East airports, with five awards. China and India have six airports each in the recognition.

ACI Asia-Pacific & Middle East’s director general, Stefano Baronci, said: “From the East to the West, airports in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Republic of Korea, China, India, Oman, UAE and Jordan have excelled to provide a best-in-class service to their customers.

“Although the Asia-Pacific region has been the hardest hit by the pandemic, airports in the region have invested significantly in technology, human resources, and infrastructure to ensure that passengers continue to have a memorable and seamless experience.”

In addition, five airports from Asia-Pacific and the Middle East have been recognised with the ACI World Director General’s Roll of Excellence. This honour is conferred on airports that have won multiple Awards over a five-year period in the last 10 years as part of the ASQ programme.

Europe’s airports join call for more EU funding

More than 40 European transport organisations, including ACI EUROPE, have once again joined forces to urge the Council and the European Parliament to increase the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) budget for transport in the upcoming review of the Multi-Annual Financial Framework.

ACI EUROPE’s director general, Olivier Jankovec, said: “Greater EU financing is a prerequisite for the sector’s ability to decarbonise by 2050. There is no escaping that transport modes incurring harder-to-abate emissions, such as aviation, do require more policy and financial support commensurate to the challenge they face.

“While ACI EUROPE joins the wider transport sector’s call for more EU budget for transport, we believe that there should also be a fairer allocation of the funds amongst different transport modes.”

According to the independent study from the consultancies SEO Amsterdam Economics and the Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre, commissioned by the DESTINATION 2050 alliance, fully decarbonising air transport by 2050 will require funding in excess of €820 billion.

Whilst aviation stakeholders are fully committed to the objectives of the EU Green Deal, and have embraced the Fit for 55 legislative package, the sector will not be able to go it alone in financing its transition.

Indeed, ACI EUROPE believes that the investment needs of airports should be considered as a matter of priority, particularly as they didn’t benefit from the same level of support during the COVID-19 crisis at national level compared to other stakeholders.

As a result, notes ACI EUROPE, the continent’s airports had no choice but to pile on debt, which still remains close to €40bn higher than pre-pandemic levels. This has led to a significant reduction in capital expenditure – with airports investments reduced by €27bn compared to plans over 2022-2024.

All of this at a time when financing decarbonisation, digitalisation, resilience, service quality and capacity have never been more crucial for the well-functioning of European air transport sector and its ability to continue delivering value to European citizens. Europe now faces a looming airport investment crunch, as financing needs are estimated at €360bn by 2040.

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