Emerging economies, China, and India, lead IATA’s airline traffic growth forecast

An industry traffic forecast by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 240 airlines comprising 84% of global air traffic, shows India, China and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), leading air passengers and freight growth over the next four years.

The IATA Airline Industry Forecast 2012~2016 sees passenger numbers expanding by an average of 5.3% per annum, between 2012 and 2016, to reach 3.6 billion passengers, up 800 million from the 2.8 billion in 2011. The 28.5% increase in passenger numbers, over the forecast period, will see almost 500 million new passengers travelling on domestic routes and 331 million on international services.

Despite the current economic slowdown, which has seen depressed air cargo freight volumes, international air cargo is expected to grow at 3% per annum to total 34.5 million tons in 2016, up 4.8 million tons from 29.6 million tonnes carried in 2011.

The emerging economies of Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East will see the strongest passenger growth. Passenger growth within the Asia-Pacific region, domestic and international, is expected to add around 380 million passengers over the forecast period.

China is the global growth leader, with routes within or connected to China, forecasted to account for 193 million of the 831 million new passengers, 159 million on domestic routes and 34 million travelling internationally.

India will have the second highest domestic passenger growth rate, globally, at 13.1% CAGR, adding 49.3 million new passengers to become the fourth largest domestic market in the world, by 2016, at 107.2 million.

The United States will continue to be the largest single market, with 710.2 million domestic and 223 million international passengers. However the maturity of the US market will ensure its growth rates at 2.6% domestic, and 4.3% international, will be below the global average of 5.2% domestic and 5.3% international.

Forecast Highlights:

International Passenger Development

  • International passenger numbers are expected to grow from 1.11 billion in 2011 to 1.45 billion passengers in 2016, bringing 331 million passengers for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.3%.
  • Five of the ten fastest growing markets for international passenger traffic are among the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) or were part of the former Soviet Union, with the others in Latin America, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. Kazakhstan leads at 20.3% CAGR, followed by Uzbekistan (11.1%), Sudan (9.2%), Uruguay (9%), Azerbaijan (8.9%), Ukraine (8.8%), Cambodia (8.7%), Chile (8.5%), Panama (8.5%) and the Russian Federation (8.4%).
  • By 2016, the top five countries for international travel measured by number of passengers will be the United States (223.1 million, an increase of 42.1 million new passengers), the United Kingdom (200.8 million, +32.8 million), Germany (at 172.9 million, +28.2 million), Spain (134.6 million, +21.6 million), and France (123.1 million, +23.4 million). [Editor’s note: The large numbers in Europe appear to be reflective of the high number of transit passengers carried by each nations carriers].

Domestic Passenger Development

  • Domestic passenger numbers are expected to rise from 1.72 billion in 2011, to 2.21 billion in 2016, a 494 million increase reflecting a CAGR of 5.2% over the period.
  • Kazakhstan will experience the fastest growth rate at 22.5% CAGR, adding 3.9 million passengers to the 2.2 million in 2011. India will have the second highest growth rate at 13.1% CAGR, adding 49.3 million new passengers. China at 10.1% will add 158.9 million new domestic passengers. No other country is expected to experience double-digit growth rates over the forecast period. Brazil, which has the industry’s third largest domestic market after the United States and China, will experience an 8% CAGR, adding 38 million new passengers.
  • By 2016 the five largest markets for domestic passengers will be the United States (710.2 million), China (415 million), Brazil (118.9 million), India (107.2 million), and Japan (93.2 million). [Editor’s note: Japan’s domestic airline industry has to compete with the excellent high speed rail network].

International Freight Developments

  • International freight volumes are expected to grow at a five-year CAGR of 3.0%, which is the result of an upward growth trend over the forecast period — starting at 1.4% growth in 2012 and reaching 3.7% in 2016.
  • The five fastest growing international freight markets over the 2011-2016 period will be Sir Lanka (8.7% CAGR), Vietnam (7.4%), Brazil (6.3%), India (6.0%) and Egypt (5.9%). Five of the 10 fastest growing countries are in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, reflecting MENA’s growing importance in international air freight.
  • By 2016, the largest international freight markets will be the United States (7.7 million tonnes), Germany (4.2 million tonnes), China (3.5 million tonnes), Hong Kong (3.2 million tonnes), Japan (2.9 million tonnes), the United Arab Emirates (2.5 million tonnes), the Republic of Korea (1.9 million tonnes), the United Kingdom (1.8 million tonnes), India (1.6 million tonnes) and the Netherlands (1.6 million tonnes).
  • Freight carriage within the Asia-Pacific region will account for around 30% of the expected total increase in freight tonnage over the period.

Regional Outlook over the 2012-2016 forecast period

  • Asia-Pacific passenger traffic is forecast to grow at 6.7% CAGR. Traffic within the Asia-Pacific region will represent 33% of global passengers in 2016, up from 29% in 2011. This makes the region the largest regional market for air transport (ahead of North America and Europe which each represent 21%). International freight demand will rise 3% CAGR, in line with global growth over the period. Routes within and connected to the Asia-Pacific region will comprise some 57% of cargo shipments.
  • Africa will report the strongest passenger growth with 6.8% CAGR. International cargo demand will rise 4%.
  • The Middle East is expected to have the third fastest growth rate at 6.6%. International freight demand will grow at 4.9%, the strongest growth among the regions.
  • Europe will see international passenger demand growth of 4.4% CAGR. International freight demand for the region will grow 2.2% CAGR, the slowest for any region.
  • North America will record the slowest international passenger demand growth–4.3% CAGR. International freight demand will rise 2.4%.
  • Latin America will see international passenger demand grow 5.8% CAGR. International freight demand will increase 4.4% per annum.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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