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Report reveals passenger markets of the future

A new report projects passenger numbers are expected to reach 7.3 billion by 2034, representing a 4.1% average annual growth in demand for air connectivity that will result in more than a doubling of the 3.3 billion passengers expected to travel this year.

23 October 2014


The International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) first 20-year passenger growth forecast projects that by 2034, the five fastest-increasing markets in terms of additional passengers per year will be China (856 million new passengers per year), the US (559 million), India (266 million), Indonesia (183 million) and Brazil (170 million).

Regional growth highlights:

  • Routes to, from and within Asia-Pacific will see an extra 1.8 billion annual passengers by 2034, for an overall market size of 2.9 billion. In relative terms it will increase its size compared to other regions to 42% of global passenger traffic, and its annual average growth rate, 4.9%, will be the joint-highest with the Middle East.
  • The North American region will grow by 3.3% annually and in 2034 will carry a total of 1.4 billion passengers, an additional 649 million passengers a year.
  • Europe will have the slowest growth rate, 2.7%, but will still cater for an additional 591 million passengers a year. The total market will be 1.4 billion passengers.
  • Latin American markets will grow by 4.7%, serving a total of 605 million passengers, an additional 363 million passengers annually compared to today.
  • The Middle East will grow strongly (4.9%) and will see an extra 237 million passengers a year on routes to, from and within the region by 2034. The UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia will all enjoy strong growth of 5.6%, 4.8%, and 4.6% respectively. The total market size will be 383 million passengers.
  • Africa will grow by 4.7%. By 2034 it will see an extra 177 million passengers a year for a total market of 294 million passengers.

Analysis of the 10 largest air passenger markets defined by traffic to, from and within for the period 2014-2034:

  • The United States will remain the largest air passenger market until around 2030, when it will drop to number 2, behind China. Cumulatively over the next 20 years the US will carry 18.3 billion more passengers and China 16.9 billion.
  • Currently the ninth largest market, India will see a total of 367 million passengers by 2034, an extra 266 million annual passengers compared to today. It will overtake the UK (148 million extra passengers, total market 337 million) to become the 3rd largest market around 2031.
  • Reflecting a declining and ageing population, Japanese air passenger numbers will grow just 1.3% per year and decline from the 4th largest market in 2014 to the 9th largest by 2033.
  • Germany and Spain will decline from 5th and 6th position in 2014 to be the 8th and 7th largest markets respectively. France will fall from 7th to 10th while Italy will fall out of the top 10 altogether in around 2019.
  • Brazil will increase passenger numbers by 170 million and rise from 10th to 5th. Its total market will be 272 million passengers.
  • Indonesia will enter the top ten around 2020 and attain 6th place by 2029. By 2034 it will be a market of 270 million passengers.

Explanation of demand drivers

The Global Passenger Forecast Report explains future trends in passenger numbers by means of three key demand drivers: living standards, population and demographics, and price and availability.

  • Living standards have a known effect on the propensity to fly. Countries on a growth curve up to approximately US$20,000 per capita see correspondingly faster increases in the number of flights taken per person per year.
  • Population and demographics reflects not just population trends over the next 20 years but also measures such as the old-age dependency ratio. On these measures, countries such as Japan, Russia and Ukraine are expected to undergo significant population decline. African nations, on the other hand, are set for rapid population growth. Typically, the nations with growing populations also have younger populations, and working-age groups are more likely to fly than over-65s.
  • Price and availability looks to predict future trends of the price of air travel and the extent of future air connectivity. The unit cost of air transport has fallen by a factor of four since 1950. However, the past decade has seen prices bottom out, largely due to the increased cost of oil. In the coming two decades, the downward trend in the real cost of air travel is expected to resume, at a rate of around 1 – 1.5% per year. Air connectivity is expected to increase with the addition of new longer-range mid-size aircraft. Greater liberalization of air markets has the potential to increase global air traffic growth by over 1 percentage point per year.

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