In twenty years China is poised to become the world’s largest air passenger market by traffic, but the U.S. will continue rivaling it until 2030.

By then, the U.S. will move to the number two spot, and over the next 20 years will carry 18.3 billion passengers and China will carry 16.9 billion. India, Japan, Brazil and Indonesia will all follow China, a new International Air Transport Association (IATA) report found. The report analyzes passenger flows across 4,000 country pairs for the next 20 years, forecasting passenger numbers using three key demand drivers: living standards, population and demographics, and price and availability.

India will see 367 million annual passengers by 2034, 266 million more a year than it sees today, and will overtake the U.K. to become the third largest market. The Asia and South America markets will see the most growth due to improved economies and living conditions on both continents, says Jason Sinclair, a spokesperson for IATA.

“Flying is cheaper than what it used to be and people have more disposable income now,” said Sinclair. “The average ticket prices have declined in the last twenty years by one-third, when adjusted for inflation, making it possible for emerging economies like Brazil, China and Indonesia to travel more.”

Asia and the Middle East will see the most regional growth over the next two decades, each having an average annual growth rate of 4.9% by 2034. Asia’s overall market size will be 2.9 billion passengers by that year, and the Middle East’s will be 383 million passengers.

Africa and Latin America will follow, and both will have 4.7% annual average growth rates in twenty years. Europe and North America will each command a market of 1.4 billion passengers in twenty years but will have the lowest annual growth rates, North America at 3.3% and Europe at 2.7%.

The fastest growing domestic markets mirror the fastest growing regional markets, with China on top growing at 5.6% per year and having one billion passengers by 2034, followed by the U.S., India, Indonesia and Brazil.

Sinclair added it’s too early to tell what tendencies Chinese travelers will have over the next twenty years in terms of what destinations they’ll visit most.

The Largest Air Passenger Markets of 2034

RankCountryTotal Number of Passengers
1China2.9 billion
2U.S.1.4 billion
3India367 million
4Brazil272 million
5Indonesia270 million

Source: IATA

Photo Credit: Passengers line up to get boarding passes in Terminal C at DFW Airport on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, in DFW Airport, Texas. Max Faulkner / Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT