Global airline association predicts air passenger traffic to double by 2036

3rd November 2017 By: Keith Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has forecast that 7.8-billion people will travel by air in 2036. This will amount to a nearly 100% increase on the four-billion air passengers predicted for this year. This projection is based on an average compound annual growth rate (GAGR) of 3.6%. “All indicators lead to growing demand for global connectivity,” highlighted Iata director-general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac. “The world needs to prepare for a doubling of passengers in the next 20 years. It is also a huge challenge for governments and industry to ensure we can successfully meet this essential demand.”

However, should there be an increase in trade protectionism and in travel restrictions, the rate of air passenger traffic growth could be reduced to 2.7%, giving a total of 6.7-billion air travellers in 2036. On the other hand, if there is greater trade and travel liberalisation, the average CAGR could exceed 5.6% and result in about 12-billion air passengers in 2036.

“Increasing demand will bring a significant infrastructure challenge,” he stressed. “The solution does not lie in more complex processes or building bigger and bigger airports but in harnessing the power of new technology to move activity off-airport, streamline processes and improve efficiency. Through partnerships within the industry and beyond, we are confident that sustainable solutions for continued growth can be found.”

The major force for growth will be the Asia-Pacific region. China is expected to become the biggest aviation market in the world (replacing the US) around 2022, two years sooner than predicted last year. (‘Aviation market’ is defined as traffic to, from and within a country or region.) This is because China is growing a little faster and the US a little slower than previously expected. India will rise to third place, and Indonesia to fourth, with the UK falling from third to fifth place, by 2036. (India should overtake the UK in 2025 and Indonesia should do the same in 2030.) Turkey will occupy ninth place in 2036, with Thailand tenth. France will decline to 11th and Italy to 12th.

In terms of numbers, China should see 921-million new air passengers, taking its total to 1.5-billion. Passenger numbers should grow by 401-million in the US, to 1.1-billion, by 337-million in India (to 478-million), by 235-million in Indonesia (to 355-million) and by 119-million in Turkey (to 196-million).

In terms of percentage increases, however, the fastest growth will be enjoyed mainly by African markets. Countries such as Benin, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Côte d’Ivoire, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia should see annual average CAGRs of more than 7.2%. This would mean that their markets will double every ten years.

At regional level, Africa will see annual growth of 5.9%, resulting in 274-million more passengers a year by 2036 and taking the total regional market to 400-million. The Middle East will have a yearly growth of 5%, bringing in 322-million passengers and taking that regional market to a total of 517-million. The Asia-Pacific region will enjoy growth of 4.6%, adding 2.1-billion passengers a year by 2036, taking its total market to 3.5-billion. Latin America will see growth of 4.2%, increasing its passenger numbers by 421-million, to reach a total of 757-million. Europe and North America will each grow by 2.3%. In the case of Europe, this will add 550-million passengers annually, to reach a total of 1.5-billion. In the case of North America, the figures will be 452-million and 1.2-billion passengers respectively.

“No industry has done more to meet its environmental obligations than aviation,” assured De Juniac. “Our tough targets to achieve carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and to cut our CO2 emissions to half the 2005 levels by 2050 are backed by a comprehensive strategy. Our immediate aims are to work with governments to increase the production of sustainable aviation fuels, and to deliver air traffic management efficiencies, which promise significant emissions savings.”