You are here

Economic overview

In 2018 the world economy continued to grow, although the outlook for global trade deteriorated. International economic growth is exposed to numerous of risk factors: the repercussions of a negative outcome to the trade negotiations between the United States and China giving rise to the introduction of new protectionist measures, the rekindling of financial tensions in emerging nations and the conditions in which the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union (Brexit) will be concluded, following the vote by the British Parliament rejecting the ratification of the agreement negotiated by the government in November.

According to projections published by the OECD last November, in 2018 global economic growth came to 3.7%, one-tenth of a point more than in the previous year.

In 2019 global GDP is expected to rise by 3.5%, two-tenths of a point less than projected in September: the revision reflects a slight worsening of the outlook in the Eurozone, Japan and the major emerging economies, accompanied by the already expected slowdown in the United States, due in part to the gradual abatement of the expansionary effects of the tax stimulus.

In the third quarter of 2018, economic performances differed among the main advanced economies. According to the most recent indicators, in the final part of the year growth remained robust in the United States and returned to positive territory in Japan, following the sharp decline in GDP witnessed in the third quarter due to the natural disasters that struck the country. In the United Kingdom growth was consistent with the average for the first half of the year. Among the main emerging economies, in China the slowdown in economic activity that began in early 2018 continued in the final months of the year, despite the tax stimulus measures enacted by the government. By contrast, the expansionary phase remained robust in India, albeit at more moderate rates than in the first half of the year, whereas the macroeconomic scenario in Brazil is still fragile.

Consumer inflation weakened in the United States and the United Kingdom, while fluctuating around 1% in Japan, although the fundamental component remains near zero. 

Crude oil prices have fallen sharply since early October, due above all to supply-side factors, such as the increase in output in the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia, together with the stability of Iranian exports, following the temporary loosening of the sanctions imposed by the United States. The agreement on the new production cuts reached in early December between OPEC members and other producing nations (OPEC+) was not enough to stop prices from falling. 

Economic activity slowed in the Eurozone, due in part to temporary factors, but also to deteriorating expectations amongst businesses and weak foreign demand. In November, industrial output declined considerably across all the main economies. In the autumn inflation slowed due to the performance of energy prices. In the third quarter the zone’s GDP increased by 0.2% on the previous period, a sharp slowdown compared to the spring. Essentially stagnant exports held back growth. Domestic demand continued to contribute 0.5% to GDP, driven by the change in inventories and, to a lesser extent, investments. In the final months of the year, the industrial output fell faster than expected in Germany, France and Italy. In December, the Bank of Italy’s €-coin indicator, which estimates the baseline performance of Eurozone GDP, continued to decline to 0.42%, its lowest level since the end of 2016.

Inflation fell in the autumn, amounting to 1.6% at the end of the year, due to the slowdown of energy prices. Average inflation for the year was 1.7% (1.5% in 2017).

In Italy, after growth came to an end in the third quarter, the available economic indicators suggest that economic activity may have continued to slow in the fourth quarter. The weakening seen in the summer was fuelled by declining domestic demand, particularly from investments and, to a lesser degree, household spending. According to the Bank of Italy, the investment plans of industrial and service firms are believed to have been reduced in the light of the political and economic uncertainty coupled with trade tensions.

Italian export performance remained positive in the second half of the year. However, slowing global trade influenced the foreign order outlook for companies.

In the summer quarter, hours worked rose while the number of job-holders fell slightly. According to the first available data, in the autumn employment is believed to have remained essentially stable.

Overall inflation fell to 1.2% in December, due above all to slowing energy prices. Companies’ price expectations were revised slightly downwards.

Risk premia on government bonds fell due to the agreement between the Italian government and the European Commission on budget planning. The spread between the yields on Italian and German government bonds stood at approximately 260 basis points in mid-January, 65 points below the November high. However, overall financial market conditions remain tenser than before the summer.

Air transport and airports

Global air transport performance (to October 2018)

In October 2018, global passenger traffic, measured on a sample of over one thousand airports, increased by 6.1 percentage points on the same period of 2017, amounting to 5.981 billion passengers.

There was growth across all continents, and in particular:

  • Europe (which has 32% market share) posted gains of +6.2%;
  • Asia (29% market share) posted gains of +7.3%;
  • North America (25% market share) posted gains of +5.2%;
  • Central/South America (8% market share) posted gains of +4.8%;
  • the Middle East (4% market share) posted gains of +2.3%;
  • Africa (2% market share) posted gains of +10.1%.

In the global rankings, the number-one airport by passenger traffic was Atlanta (89.8 million passengers served, of which 79.2 for domestic traffic), followed by Beijing (84.4 million passengers served, of which 64.6 for domestic traffic), and Dubai (74.5 million passengers served).

Global air traffic 20181




Key: AFR (Africa), ASP (Asia Pacific), EUR (Europe), LAC (Latin America), MEA (Middle East), NAM (North America). Source: ACI World (Pax Flash & Freight Flash)

Cargo traffic also increased across all areas at an average rate of 4.2 percentage points, with 85.6 million tons of cargo processed at a sample of 681 airports. Asia – the leader in terms of cargo handled – was up by +3.3%, North America by +6.1%, Europe by +2.8%, the Middle East by +0.4%, Central/South America by +8.7% and Africa by +11.6%.

European airport performances in 20182 

The ACI Europe associated European airports reported passenger growth of 4.8% to 1166.2 million passengers served.

The main European hubs3 (representing 36% of total associated airport traffic) and their percentage growth on the previous year are shown below.


European airport performances – 2018

If the 42 ACI Europe member airports are included in the analysis, Malpensa ranks second by percentage growth (+11.5%), between Budapest (+13.5%) and Athens (+11.2%), as shown below.


European airport performances – 2018

Cargo traffic was stable on the previous year (-0.2%), with a total of over 12.0 million tons handled.

In terms of goods handled, in the rankings of the main ACI Europe member airports, Malpensa comes fifth (558.2 thousand tons), after Frankfurt at 2.1 million tons, Paris Charles de Gaulle at 2.0 million tons and London Heathrow and Amsterdam at 1.7 million tons each.

Italian airport traffic performance in 2018 4

Passenger traffic at the Italian Assaeroporti member airports was up 5.9%. In 2018 185.4 million passengers were served, an increase of 10.3 million on 2017. International traffic was up by 7.2% and domestic traffic by 3.3%.

There were 1.4 million flights during the year (+3.6%), whereas the cargo carried was essentially in line with the previous year (1,056.6 thousand tons, -0.4%).

As may be seen from the following chart, the area* with the greatest passenger growth in percentage terms was the South, followed by the North-Eastern and North-Western areas of the country.

Italian air traffic


*North West: Bergamo, Bologna, Genoa, Linate, Malpensa, Turin, others; North East:  Treviso, Venice, Verona, others; Centre: Ancona, Rome Ciampino, Rome Fiumicino, others; South: Bari, Brindisi, Lamezia Terme, Naples, Pescara, Reggio Calabria, others; Islands: Alghero, Cagliari, Lampedusa, Olbia, Palermo, others.

Among the North-Western airports, the Lombardy airport system (25% of total italian traffic) served 46.8 million passengers (+6.5%); Milan Malpensa contributed with 24.7 million (+11.5%), Milan Linate with 9.2 million (-3.3%) and Bergamo Orio al Serio with 12.9 million (+4.9%).

In Central Italy, the Rome airport system (26% of total italian traffic) hit 48.8 million passengers (+4.2%); Rome Fiumicino served 43.0 million (+4.9%), while Rome Ciampino with 5.8 million contracted (-0.7%).

Among the North-Eastern airports, Venice reached 11.2 million passengers carried (+7.9%), while in the South Catania and Naples grew by 8.9% and 15.8% each, serving 9.9 million passengers each.

General Aviation

In 2018, Business and General Aviation in Europe recorded a 1.8% growth in flights, reaching pre-crisis figures of 2008. Italy, where flights were in line with FY 2017 (+0.1%), is the fourth market in Europe with a 7% market share (source: Wingx). General Aviation at the Milan Linate and Malpensa Prime airports, with 25.9 thousand flights, grew by 2.5% and ranks in the fifth place in Europe in terms of traffic served (after London, Paris, Nice and Geneva) and in the first place in Italy, where it holds a 40% market share.


2 ACI EUROPE: Rapid Exchange
3 Airport hubs: Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Zurich, Rome Fiumicino, Madrid and London Heathrow.
4 Source: Assaeroporti’s 39 associated airports; the figures include commercial aviation inclusive of direct transits