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Forecast: Domestic China flights to propel airlines’ global passenger growth

Dec 06, 2012 7:57 am

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The airline business is a growing enterprise on a global scale, and that’s good news for the global distribution systems, too.

— Dennis Schaal

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China travelers will be the catalyst for airlines' passenger growth. Guidoux


The International Air Transport Association forecasts robust growth in airline passenger numbers through 2016, and a good chunk of it will be generated by the domestic airline market in China.

IATA predicts 3.6 billion passengers will board commercial aircraft in 2016, a 28.5% leap compared with 2011. That growth rate translates to a 5.3% bump per year.

And, of the 831 million additional passengers flying in 2016, 159 million — or 19.1% of them — will be coming from growth in the number of Chinese citizens traveling within China, IATA forecasts.

By comparison, China’s international passenger numbers are projected to increase by just 34 million by 2016.

In fact, growth in passenger volume in domestic markets (500 million) around the world is projected to outpace international passenger growth (331 million), IATA states.

However, if you take China out of the domestic versus international passenger growth equation, then there is more relative balance — 341 million additional domestic passengers versus 297 million new international flyers.

“Despite the current economic uncertainty, expected demand for connectivity remains strong,” says Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO. “That’s good news for the global economy. Growing air transport links generate jobs and underpin economic growth in all economies. But exploiting these will require governments to recognize aviation’s value with policies that do not stifle innovation, tax regimes that do not punish success and investments to enable infrastructure to keep up with growth.”

Looking at the airlines’ prospects as a whole, the airline business appears to be a growing one with healthy spikes in passenger numbers.

These passenger growth numbers also can dampen incessant calls that the global distribution business, which relies on airline passengers, is stagnant and dead in the water.

Other data points from the IATA forecast:

  • In 2016, the U.S. will continue to be the largest market for domestic passengers (710.2 million) and international travel (223 million passengers).
  • However, the U.S. domestic passenger growth rate (2.6%) and international passenger growth rate (4.3) come in well below the global averages of 5.2% and 5.3% for domestic and international growth, respectively.
  • Asia-Pacific will be the largest regional market in 2016 with one-third of all global passengers while Europe and North America will secure shares of 21% each. Asia-Pacific’s 33% share in 2016 amounts to an increase from 29% in 2011.
  • Only Africa, with a compound annual growth rate of 6.8% through 2016, is projected to beat Asia-Pacific’s CAGR of 6.7%, although Africa’s regional best comes from a lower base of passengers.

Note: IATA’s numbers cover 84% of global air traffic, and the organization represents 240 airlines.

Here’s the IATA press release: 

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