The recovery in international air traffic in Europe and North America is seriously lagging behind aviation growth elsewhere in the world that led to an overall 7.6% rise in passenger traffic worldwide in March.
World air traffic was 6% up year on year in the first three months of 2010 and international passenger traffic rose by 8%, according to airports association ACI.
However, the world’s biggest aviation markets – Europe and North America – remain “significantly behind” the passenger volumes they reported in 2007, with the intra-Europe and US domestic markets particularly hard hit.
That left worldwide passenger numbers in January to March still 3% down on two years ago.
The April figures are also expected to be down following the grounding of aircraft in Europe due to volcanic ash.
Airports in North Africa, China and South-East Asia showed the greatest growth – quarterly passenger numbers rising 29% year on year at Sharm el Sheikh, 34% at Hurghada, 19% at Cairo, 18% at Casablanca and 11% at Marrakech.
Traffic also rose sharply at Shanghai Pudong (30%), Incheon (22%), Jakarta (33%), Kuala Lumpur (26%), Beijing (25%) and Singapore (19%).
By contrast, Gatwick (3%) and Heathrow (0.6%) were the only UK airports to report growth over 2009 in the first three months of the year and the rates contrasted sharply with the higher growth at major Continental airports – such as Amsterdam (8%), Frankfurt (8%) and Madrid (6%).
ACI director general Angela Gittens said: “The 12-month rolling results present an encouraging sign, registering positively across the board for the first time in two years. However, sudden changes in our business environment can quickly overturn the situation.”