Airport traffic in January 2009 continued on a steady decline as figures released by Airports Council International (ACI) show a 6% downturn compared with January 2008.

Over the past 12-month period, passenger growth dropped by 1% and freight traffic continued to mirror the global economic crises by dropping 6%.

ACI Director General Angela Gittens said that the results came as no surprise, given the global instability in the financial and industrial sectors.

“Airport activity is tied to the health of world, regional and local economies,” Gittens said.

Europe recorded stark decreases for both domestic (-18%) and international traffic (-9%). Africa was hardest hit domestically (-12%) and also declined internationally (-8%) with Egyptian tourist destinations losing up to 20% of traffic.

All North American airports participating in the sample report reduced traffic, excepting Charlotte, North Carolina and Indianapolis, Indiana. Bright spots at Latin American airports include Cancun, Mexico City, Lima, Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo (CGH).

ACI director economics Andreas Schimm said that more turbulent times where yet to come.

“There is a significant downside risk for February 2009 figures, given the likelihood of a continuing deterioration in the global economic climate. The comparisons will be further impacted by the fact that Chinese New Year was in February last year and the leap year gave one additional working day,” Schimm said.

“We must accept that this downturn will continue for a while longer and keep looking ahead to the inevitable upswing to ensure that airports remain a firm cornerstone for rebuilding economic health.”

Asia Pacific domestic traffic, bolstered by Chinese New Year travel in January 2009 provided the only bright spot worldwide. Domestic traffic was positive in Beijing, Shanghai, Manila, Sydney, and Bangkok as well as in several smaller Chinese airports.

International traffic in the region did not fare as well, however, as seen in major hubs across the region, excepting modest growth at Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong.

The Middle East continues to be the only region registering total traffic growth.

By Daniel Garrun.