Global passenger traffic reached 8.8 billion last year, an increase of 6.4% from 2017, according to the World Airport Traffic Report by Airports Council International (ACI) World.
Airports around the world handled a combined 122.7 million metric tonnes of cargo and around 100 million aircraft movements.
Although growth was slightly moderated compared to 2017, passenger traffic grew despite global uncertainty.
In terms of passenger growth, the 2018 increase was above the 5.8% compounded average annual growth rate from 2010 to 2018.
Developing countries held a higher percentage of growth at 8.3%, compared with the 4.8% growth of developed economies.
However, developed economies had the highest proportion of global passenger traffic, at 52.8%.
Last year, Asian Pacific airports recorded an 8.1% growth in passenger traffic, touching 3.3 billion, which is the highest compared to other regions.
European airports ranked second with 2.4 billion passengers and a 6.4% growth.
North American airports handled two billion people (+5.0%), Latin America-Caribbean had 651 million passengers (+5.0%), the Middle East saw 396 million (+0.7%) and Africa had 214 million passengers (+9.4%).
In the top 20 markets, the UK saw the largest influx of international passengers, at 250 million, while the US had the largest number of domestic passengers, at 1.6 billion.
The air cargo market experienced a slight decrease of 1.7% in December last year, which brought the growth to 3.4%.
According to the organisation, slowing global economy, protectionist policies and geopolitical tensions pose as challenges for continued growth.
ACI states that potential bottlenecks in air transport infrastructure and physical capacity considerations create other challenges in meeting future demand.
ACI World director general Angela Gittens said: “Protectionist rhetoric, fuelled by isolationist policies, has swept several major economies in recent times and this has translated into a dismantling of established open trade relationships and regimes.
“Because aviation has strong links to the global economy and to local development through commerce and tourism, these new barriers may restrain the efficient flow of people, goods and services; air transport very much relies on open markets to grow.
“Despite this, passenger traffic has remained resilient, posting annual growth rates above historical averages with the cost of travel decreasing in many markets and middle-class populations burgeoning in emerging markets.”
Despite the challenges, ACI forecasts around 30% growth in passenger traffic from 2018 to 2023, with passenger traffic projected to double in 17 years.