Networks and the sustainability of small airports

The 27th ACI Africa/World Annual General Assembly, Conference and Exhibition successfully concluded last month in Mauritius with an attendance of over 500 industry delegates. Among the launch of ACI products and services that contributed to the conference’s favourable outcome was a new Policy Brief on airport networks and the sustainability of small airports.

The new publication provides an overview of the state of airport networks worldwide, based on a robust dataset and inventory of the world’s networks. It reveals that an estimated 1,900 or nearly half (49%) of the world’s airports belong to airport networks of some kind and that together, they handle an overall annual traffic volume of 2.9 billion passengers, or 38% of global passenger traffic. Significant proportions of airports in the Middle East and Africa belong to airport networks—96% and 89% respectively, providing respective 83% and 78% regional shares of traffic.

The Policy Brief proves that the sustainable operation and development of the world’s smaller airports remains a challenge. While the airport industry as a whole is profitable, as shown in the ACI Airport Economics Report, financial statements show that as many as 66% of the world’s airports—most of which are small—operate at a net loss.

The airport network model is one management option to overcome this challenge. While airport operators should be permitted to operate under a wide range of management models to serve their specific missions, business needs and local circumstances, a network approach, which allows cross-subsidies from profitable larger airports, are often key to the sustainability of smaller airports, which in turn provide essential benefits in terms of safety, social and economic development, and positive externalities to airlines users of the network.

Airport networks must thus continue to be able to cross-subsidize smaller airports in accordance with the ICAO framework. As such, the ACI Policy Brief puts forth practical policy recommendations to ensure that airport operation and development is sustainable and beneficial to airlines, passengers, communities and national economies.

Learn more on and/or download the Policy Brief on airport networks and the sustainability of small airports at

Angela Gittens    Director General, ACI World

Angela Gittens

Director General, ACI World

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