China’s 200-plus airports handled over one billion passengers for the first time in 2016; 17 airports welcomed over 20 million customers

Hainan Airlines of China launches Manchester route

Last June Hainan Airlines began direct flights between Beijing and Manchester. Beijing continues to be China’s busiest airport growing by 5% in 2016 to reach 94.4 million passengers. According to ACI statistics it was the world’s busiest airport in January with over four million departing passengers. However, come April, movements at the airport will be cut by around 20% while maintenance work takes place on one of the facility’s three runways.

Last year China’s airports handled over 1 billion passengers for the first time. CAAC reports that the country’s 200+ airports actually processed 1,016 million customers in 2016, an increase of 11.1% when compared with 2015. This compares with growth of 10.0% in 2015, 10.2% in 2014, 11.0% in 2013, 9.5% in 2012 and 10.0% in 2011. Only the US has more passengers using its airports.

Compared with 2015 there was no change in the rankings for the top four airports. However, Kunming jumped two places from seventh to fifth, leap-frogging Shenzhen and Shanghai Hongqiao, thanks to seeing demand grow by just under 12%. The only new entry in the top 15 was Zhengzhou which barged Urumqi out of the way. Zhengzhou’s growth of 20% was the highest among the leading airports. The slowest-growing facility was Shanghai Hongqiao which registered just 3.5% growth, well below the national average.

China top 15 airports in 2016.

Source: CAAC.

While Beijing was beaten to the 100-million passenger mark by Atlanta in 2016, according to ACI data it was the world’s busiest airport in January 2017 with 4,090,549 departing passengers (representing 8.5% growth) just beating off Dubai with 4,018,504 (+9.7%) and Atlanta with 3,885,716 (+0.3%). However, the airport will be closing one runway for maintenance work for most of April resulting in an expected 20% reduction in movements that month. The city’s new airport, Daxing International, is currently set to open in 2019 with the potential for seven runways.

In 2016 182 Chinese airports handled at least 100,000 passengers, 77 of which handled more than one million passengers per annum. In 2015 this figure was 70 and in 2014 it was 64. A total of 17 airports handled over 20 million passengers last year, up from just 11 in 2015. Among those airports with more than five million passengers (of which there are 43) the fastest-growing were Lanzhou ( traffic up 36.1%) and Zhuhai (30.2%).

International traffic growth in China slows at end of 2016

Official monthly statistics show that domestic air travel grew by 10.7% in 2016 while international traffic on Chinese carriers grew by 22.7%. However, domestic traffic, which had grown by 9% across the first eight months of the year, saw faster growth in the last four months of 2016, averaging 13.7% between September and December. The reverse happened with international traffic. Here, growth was 28% between January and August but slipped to just 13.5% in the last third of the year. So far for 2017 only January figures are available. Statistics for the first month of this year show that domestic traffic has grown 17.4% and international traffic is up 19.1%. 

China domestic and international traffic growth

Source: CAAC.

Tigerair Singapore launches service to Zhengzhou in June 2016

Zhengzhou Airport grew by 20% in 2016, moving into the top 15 Chinese airports by serving 20.8 million passengers last year. New international services included Emirates from Dubai (via Yinchuan), China Eastern Airlines to Da Nang and Nha Trang, Sichuan Airlines to Vancouver and Tigerair Singapore from Singapore (pictured).


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