Present trends in air transport suggest passenger numbers could double to 8.2 billion in 2037, with Asia-Pacific driving the biggest growth, according to IATA.
The latest update to IATA’s 20-Year Air Passenger Forecast anticipates a 3.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next two decades.
The association warned, however, that growth prospects for air transport, and the economic benefits driven by aviation, could be curtailed if protectionist measures are implemented by governments.
“Aviation is growing, and that is generating huge benefits for the world. A doubling of air passengers in the next 20 years could support 100 million jobs globally,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.
There are two highlights that stand out in the forecast, he continued. “Firstly, we are seeing a geographical reshuffling of world air traffic to the East. And secondly, we foresee a significant negative impact on the growth and benefits of aviation if tough and restrictive protectionist measures are implemented,”
The Asia-Pacific region will drive the biggest growth with more than half the total number of new passengers over the next 20 years coming from these markets. Growth in this market is being driven by a combination of continued robust economic growth, improvements in household incomes and favourable population and demographic profiles.
IATA projects routes to, from and within Asia-Pacific will see an extra 2.4 billion annual passengers by 2037, for a total market size of 3.9 billion passengers. Its CAGR of 4.8% is the highest, followed by Africa and the Middle East.
China is forecast to displace the US as the world’s largest aviation market (defined as traffic to, from and within the country) in the mid-2020s, with an traffic expected to grow by one billion to reach 1.6 billion by 2037. IATA expects the rebalancing of China’s economy towards consumption to support strong passenger demand over the long term.
India will take third place after the US, surpassing the UK around 2024. By 2037, traffic is projected to expand by to 572 million, up 414 million from 2017.
IATA also highlighted Indonesia to be a standout performer – forecast to climb from the world’s 10th largest aviation market in 2017 to the fourth largest by 2030. Traffic is expected to grow by 282 million for a total of 411 million by 2037.
Thailand is also projected to enter the top 10 markets in 2030, replacing Italy, with a projected 214 million passengers by 2037 after increasing by 116 million.
No matter which growth scenario comes to pass, IATA opined that aviation faces an infrastructure crisis. Governments must work closely with the industry, to be more ambitious in developing efficient infrastructure, fit for purpose, and offering value for money, the association stressed.
“The world stands to benefit greatly from better connectivity. However, at this rate, airports and air traffic control will not be able to handle demand. Governments and infrastructure operators must strategically plan for the future. Decisions made now will have an impact on the value created by aviation for their regions,” said de Juniac.
The increased demand to fly creates a responsibility to expand in a sustainable manner. The aviation industry remains committed to its goals of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards and cutting CO2 emissions to half 2005 levels by 2050.
“Commercial aviation is one of the only global industries to take on such comprehensive environmental targets. With mandatory emissions reporting beginning on January 1, 2019 under the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, this will help rally the industry to invest in more fuel efficient aircraft and sustainable aviation fuels,” said de Juniac.