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HKIA Full-year 2009 Traffic Volumes Contract while Q4 Figures Improve

(HONG KONG, 17 January 2010) — Improved performance in the fourth quarter of 2009 indicates that recovery is underway despite full-year contractions in passenger traffic, cargo volume and aircraft movements of 46.1 million (-5.0%), 3.35 million (-7.7%) and 279,505 (-7.2%) respectively.

In the first three quarters of the year, year-on-year cargo throughput was down by 22.9%, 17.1% and 5.9% from Q1 to Q3, but a 16.2% gain in Q4 helped narrow the decline for the full year. On the passenger side, traffic in the fourth quarter decreased by just 0.2% compared to the same period last year, a noticeably smaller drop than the Q1-Q3 year-on-year declines of 7.1%, 9.2% and 3.5%. Aircraft movements showed a similar trend, seeing drops of 6.7%, 8.8% and 8.2% over the first three quarters of the year but only a 5.1% decline in the fourth quarter.

“Hong Kong’s aviation industry faced a number of challenges in 2009. We saw contractions in all three air traffic categories, which were due in large part to the global financial crisis that began in the latter part of 2008. The outbreak of H1N1 and the gradual increase in the number of cross-strait direct flights also had negative effects on HKIA,” said Stanley Hui Hon-chung, Chief Executive Officer of the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AA). “In addition, volatile fuel prices, yield erosion from significantly reduced demand in front-end business traffic, and low cargo yields for most of 2009 caused airlines to reduce frequencies and suspend services to destinations, which continued to result in financial losses.”

In December 2009, cargo throughput saw an increase to 330,000 tonnes, up 35.5% from a year earlier. Recovery in foreign trade between China and Western economies, as well as the need to replenish inventories in the US and European markets, quickly led to surge in demand for air cargo transportation.

During the same month, passenger traffic increased 3.4% to 4.18 million, which was mainly attributed to the 16% year-on-year growth in travel made by Hong Kong residents. Visitor numbers grew 4% while transfer/transit passengers declined 6%. The number of air traffic movements reached 24,225, representing a year-on-year drop of 2.1%.

Mr Hui said the across-the-board improvements in air traffic figures for the last quarter, especially in comparison with the first three quarters, indicate that business is gradually flowing back to HKIA. He noted that airlines have also been increasing or restoring flight frequencies that had been previously suspended.

In light of signs of improvement in the global economy and continued strong growth on the Mainland, Mr Hui said he expects growth to return in 2010, adding that with the hard work and support of the entire airport community — including airlines, freight handlers, retailers and government bodies — he is confident that HKIA will emerge stronger and better, maintaining its status as the airport of choice for global travelers and freight operators.

Year-on-year percentage changes in air traffic figures are as follows:

2009 Passenger traffic Cargo tonnage Air traffic movements
Q1 -7.1% -22.9% -6.7%
Q2 -9.2% -17.1% -8.8%
Q3 -3.5% -5.9% -8.2%
Q4 -0.2% +16.2% -5.1%

Air Traffic Performance for 2009:

  Full-year figure Y-O-Y percentage change
Passenger traffic 46.1 million -5.0%
Cargo tonnage 3.35 million tonnes -7.7%
Air traffic movements 279, 505 -7.2%

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