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Decline in HKG air cargo reflects world results

According to Airports Council International, preliminary traffic results for 2008 show that for the full year, worldwide passenger traffic remained flat, thanks to strong growth in the first quarter which balanced the year-end decline, whereas year-end results in the freight sector, which did not benefit from any significant surge in traffic during the year, retracted in 2008 (international freight -3%, domestic -7% and the worldwide average -4.5%).

For the month of December 2008, global passenger traffic growth fell by 6% as compared to December 2007, as did international and domestic traffic. The top 10 international airports all reported declines led by Bangkok (-42%), London Gatwick (-14%), Incheon (-13%) and Tokyo Narita (-10%). Dubai was the only exception registering a 5% increase, and the only region on the rise was the Middle East with a 7% increase in international traffic. Freight traffic was heavily impacted by the devastating global economic climate in December 2008, with worldwide freight down by 20%, international freight by 25% and domestic by 9%.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, January cargo throughput at the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) dropped 28.9% to 210,000 tonnes. The steep fall in cargo volume was a result of continuously shrinking international trade caused by the global economic downturn. Almost all major HKIA markets experienced a double-digit decline during the month. While imports from Japan, Europe and Southeast Asia dropped most significantly, exports to Europe, North America and Taiwan showed the biggest decrease. Transshipments to and from Taiwan, the Chinese Mainland and Southeast Asia were also hit.

On the passenger side, although the number of visitors, particularly from long-haul markets like North America and Europe, saw a double-digit decline from the same period last year, overall passenger throughput still recorded a marginal increase, up 0.2% to 4.0 million from the same month in 2008. However, this marginal increase should be viewed in the context of the fact that Chinese New Year holidays occurred in January this year when Hong Kong people's outbound travel increased, but took place in February last year. From February 2008 to January 2009, the airport served a total of 48.6 million passengers and 300,740 flight movements, up 0.7% and 1.4% respectively from year-earlier figures. Over the same period, however, cargo volume declined 6.0% to 3.5 million tonnes.