Global air passengers hit 4.4 billion in 2018: IATA

Global air connectivity continues to become more accessible and more efficient, having flown 4.4 billion passengers last year, according to 2018 performance figures released by IATA in its latest edition of the World Air Transport Statistics.

Record efficiency was achieved with 81.9 per cent of available seats being filled, while fuel efficiency improved by more than 12 per cent compared to 2010. The report also revealed that 22,000 city pairs are now connected by direct flights, up 1,300 over 2017 and double the 10,250 city pairs connected in 1998. The real cost of air transport has more than halved over the last 20 years (to around 78 US cents per revenue tonne-kilometre, or RTK).

A whopping 4.4 billion people travelled by air in 2018

“Airlines are connecting more people and places than ever before. The freedom to fly is more accessible than ever. And our world is a more prosperous place as a result. As with any human activity, this comes with an environmental cost that airlines are committed to reducing,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.

He added: “We understand that sustainability is essential to our license to spread aviation’s benefits. From 2020, we will cap net carbon emissions growth. And, by 2050, we will cut our net carbon footprint to half 2005 levels. This ambitious climate action goal needs government support. It is critical for sustainable aviation fuels, new technology and more efficient routes to deliver the greener future we are aiming for.”

Other highlights of the 2018 airline industry performance from the report include:

System-wide, airlines carried 4.4 billion passengers on scheduled services, an increase of 6.9 per cent over 2017, representing an additional 284 million trips by air. Meanwhile, the development of the LCC segment continues to outpace that of network carriers. Measured in ASKs (available seat kilometres), LCC capacity grew by 13.4 per cent, almost doubling the overall industry growth rate of 6.9 per cent. LCCs accounted for 21 per cent of global capacity in 2018, up from 11 per cent in 2004. When looking at available seats, the global share of LCCs in 2018 was 29 per cent, reflecting the short-haul nature of their business model. This is up from 16 per cent in 2004. Some 52 of IATA’s 290 current member airlines classify themselves as LCCs, and other new model airlines.

Airlines in the Asia-Pacific region once again carried the largest number of passengers systemwide. The regional rankings (based on total passengers carried on scheduled services by airlines registered in that region) are: Asia-Pacific with 37.1 per cent market share (1.6 billion passengers, up 9.2 per cent from 2017), Europe with 26.2 per cent market share (1.1 billion passengers, up 6.6 per cent from 2017), North America with 22.6 per cent market share (989.4 million passengers, up 4.8 per cent from 2017), Latin America with 6.9 per cent market share (302.2 million passengers, up 5.7 per cent from 2017), Middle East with 5.1 per cent market share (224.2 million passengers, up 4.0 per cent from 2017) and Africa with 2.1 per cent market share (92 million passengers, up 5.5 per cent from 2017).

The top five airlines ranked by total scheduled passenger kilometres flown, were: American Airlines (330.6 billion), Delta Air Lines (330 billion), United Airlines (329.6 billion), Emirates (302.3 billion) and Southwest Airlines (214.6 billion).

The top five international/regional passenger airport-pairs were all within the Asia-Pacific region again this year: Hong Kong – Taipei Taoyuan (5.4 million, down 0.4 per cent from 2017), Bangkok Suvarnabhumi – Hong Kong (3.4 million, up 8.8 per cent from 2017), Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta – Singapore Changi (3.2 million, down 3.3 per cent from 2017), Seoul-Incheon – Osaka-Kansai (2.9 million, up 16.5 per cent from 2017) and Kuala Lumpur–International – Singapore Changi (2.8 million, up 2.1 per cent from 2017).

The top five domestic passenger airport-pairs were also all in the Asia-Pacific region: Jeju – Seoul Gimpo (14.5 million, up 7.6 per cent from 2017), Fukuoka – Tokyo Haneda (7.6 million, up 0.9 per cent from 2017), Melbourne-Tullamarine – Sydney (7.6 million, down 2.1 per cent from 2017), Sapporo – Tokyo-Haneda (7.3 million, down 1.5 per cent from 2017) and Beijing Capital – Shanghai Hongqiao (6.4 million, up 0.4 per cent from 2017).

The top five nationalities travelling (international routes) are: the UK (126.2 million, or 8.6 per cent of all passengers), the US (111.5 million, or 7.6 per cent of all passengers), China (97 million, or 6.6 per cent of all passengers), Germany (94.3 million, or 6.4 per cent of all passengers) and France (59.8 million, or 4.1 per cent of all passengers).

Meanwhile, Star Alliance maintained its position as the largest airline alliance in 2018 with 21.9 per cent of total scheduled traffic (in RPKs), followed by SkyTeam (18.8 per cent) and oneworld (15.4 per cent).

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