Asia-Pacific airport ranking
Asia-Pacific's top 30 airports ranked by passenger volume broke through the one billion passenger mark in 2012, but saw growth rates significantly below those of the three key Gulf hubs. Colin Baker reports.
Asia's top 30 airports broke through the one billion passenger mark in 2012, growing volumes 7.7% to reach 1,053.8 million, according to provisional data from Airports Council International (ACI). There was, however, a significant divergence in performance across the region, with India's two major gateways, Delhi and Mumbai, both seeing a drop in traffic.
Jakarta was a star performer in the top ten, overtaking Hong Kong to reach third spot with 14.4% growth. Japan's airports bounced back from the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, while Incheon overtook Sydney to move into the top ten, growing by 11.3%. Lower down the table, Taipei put in a strong performance, growing 11.6%. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi saw a 10.6% rise in volumes as it also recovered from a natural disaster – the floods in 2011.
Beijing was at the top of the pile, ferrying 81.9 million passengers. Its growth rate was a relatively modest 4.5% though, and the stronger performers in China tended to be secondary airports, with Xi'an, Xiamen and Hangzhou, for instance, all around a percentage point of 10%.
While the region's airports are undoubtedly performing better than many other parts of the world, there is at least one crucial exception. The three major Middle Eastern gateways of Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi grew at a rate of just under 15% – roughly twice the rate of the Asia-Pacific top 30.
If the airports were measured by available seat kilometres (ASKs) then the three Middle Eastern gateways are growing almost at three times the rate of their Asia-Pacific counterparts.
Figures from aviation intelligence provider OAG show that Hong Kong and Singapore lead the pack in the Asia-Pacific region, with the former holding top spot despite a 1.8% decline. Singapore had a good year, growing by 7.9% in terms of ASKs and 10% in terms of passengers. That was before Qantas switched hubs to Dubai, however.
But while Dubai was narrowly ahead of Hong Kong in 2011, in 2012 it put some clear blue water between the two hubs.
The OAG ASK data also shows how important low-cost carriers are becoming to some Asian airports. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi saw passenger volumes rise by 10.6%, but ASKs, which better reflect medium and long haul traffic, actually fell by 2.5%.
ASK performance ranged from 15.3% growth for Taipei to an 8.8% drop for Delhi. ASKs at Guangzhou grew at almost double the rate of passenger volumes.
Asia-Pacific's top 30 airports added 317 new routes last year, with 130 being discontinued, giving a net balance of 187 new routes. Incheon and Xi'an were top of the table for new routes at 26, one ahead of Bangkok Suvarnabhumi. Xi'an was also top of the overall balance once discontinued routes are taken into consideration, with an overall score of 20.
Bangkok and Beijing weren't too far behind Xi'an with a net balance of 19 and 18, respectively.
Australia's three top airports put in a disappointing performance on new routes, with a combined net score of nought. Sydney's five new routes were matched by negative figures for Melbourne and Brisbane. India's two main airports, Mumbai and Delhi, managed a combined score of just two. There was more churn here though, with 13 new routes added but 11 discontinued.
Looking at routes as a share of total ASKs shows the increasing importance of intra-Asian traffic at certain airports. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi saw ASKs to Incheon climb from 3,400 million to 4,151 million, which represents 4.3% of total traffic compared to 3.4% in 2011. ASKs to and from London Heathrow, in contrast, declined at the Thai airport from 6,153 million to 4,359 million and from 6.2% to 4.5% of total ASKs.
Hong Kong also cut capacity to Heathrow, reducing ASKs from 10,668 million to 9,250 million and the total share of that route to total traffic fell from 8.7% to 7.7%. It is still the largest city pair by some margin for Hong Kong, however. The next biggest is Singapore, which accounts for 4.7% of ASKs.
Singapore, in contrast, grew capacity to Heathrow from 10,673 million to 11,701 million and the London airport edged towards the ten percent mark for total share of ASKs, accounting for 9.8% up from 9.6%.
According to OAG, the key drivers of the increase in seat capacity across the Asia-Pacific region are Indonesia’s domestic market and an increase in services between mainland China and Taiwan.
Indonesia saw its domestic seat capacity increase by 18% in February 2013, with just over one million seats added since February last year, says OAG. In just five years, the Indonesian domestic seat market has almost doubled, growing from 3.5 million seats in February 2008 to 6.8 million in February this year. Low-cost carriers have grown their market share from less than 1 in 10 seats five years ago to 6 out of 10 seats in February 2013.
John Grant, executive vice president, OAG says: “The Indonesian domestic market is fast paced and highly competitive and low-cost carriers have become an increasingly important contributor to domestic capacity growth. While Lion Air is the clear leader in terms of domestic seat capacity, Indonesia AirAsia is rapidly increasing its share of the market."
He adds, “With the demand for domestic travel increasing in Indonesia, coupled with the substantial aircraft order books at Lion Air and Indonesia AirAsia, this trend of low-cost carriers gaining an increasing share of overall domestic seat capacity looks set to continue.”
Lion Air is the dominant carrier with the greatest share of the market – 52% of all domestic seat capacity in February 2013 and – whilst Garuda has the next biggest slice of the market with 22% of domestic seats. Lion Air will also deliver the majority (86%) of the additional one million seats, adding 895,000 extra domestic seats versus last year.
In North East Asia, meanwhile, OAG says the increasing liberalisation of air services between mainland China and Taiwan is providing another source of significant capacity growth within the Asia-Pacific region.
Until 2008, direct services between mainland China and Taiwan were not permitted, but following political agreement on liberalisation of the route, both countries have seen strong growth in international seat capacity.
In fact, Taiwan is now China’s second biggest international market, after South Korea, accounting for 15% of all international seats to-and-from China in February 2013. Similarly, China is Taiwan’s largest international market and will account for 25% of all international seat capacity during the same period. The latest agreement will see the limit on weekly cross-Strait services increased from the current level of 558 to 616 in March.
Grant adds: “The liberalisation of services has had a huge impact on the to-and-from seat capacity in both mainland China and Taiwan. Further liberalisation on the route and the potential for the introduction of connections between new city pairs will contribute to the continued extension of capacity within Asia-Pacific as a whole.”