Millions of Passengers and Counting: Global Travel Trends
Air travel has been growing at an unprecedented rate. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents more than 250 airlines comprising 83% of global air traffic, reports that the number of passengers carried by its member airlines rose 7.9% to 3.3 billion in 2016.
This growth has made keeping pace with demand a challenge for airports around the world. In addition to making sure that they have enough gates to handle all the passengers arriving on their planes, airports have had to expand immigration and customs areas and make sure there are enough baggage carousels to hold all those suitcases. Last year’s passenger growth was far outstripped by the number of bags handled; IATA reports an 11.7% increase in the number of passengers in 2016 compared with a 15.5% increase in luggage tags printed by airlines.
It’s a great time to be flying! Air travel is safer than ever and passengers are taking to the skies in record numbers. In fact, 2016 was the seventh consecutive year in which more than 3.5 billion passengers boarded airplanes worldwide.
How can we ensure that this upward trend continues? The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has identified four key issues facing the aviation industry: costs, competition, connectivity and carbon emissions. We’ll take a closer look at each of these issues below:
Costs: it’s no secret that air travel can be expensive, especially for long-haul flights across multiple time zones or international borders. High fuel prices and airport fees continue to drive up the cost of tickets. Airlines can reduce these costs by relying on faster and more efficient check-in procedures along with more automated baggage handling systems at airports.
Competition: as the number of passenger flights increases, the number of empty seats on those flights also increases. In order to compete effectively, airlines will need to find ways to encourage more full flights by offering lower fares and more nonstop routes to popular destinations.
Connectivity: it’s no surprise that Internet access is considered a basic human right nowadays. But getting Internet access in the air has been a
Passenger numbers grew strongly in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa, according to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) latest data.
The number of people traveling has also risen steadily over the last 20 years, as the chart below shows.
The data suggest that air travel is growing faster than the global population. And this trend looks set to continue: IATA expects passenger numbers to double from 3.5 billion in 2016 to 7.2 billion by 2035.
Passengers who boarded aircraft in the US during 2016 reached almost 813 million, up from 786 million in 2015. This is a 3.9% increase over 2015, which is slightly faster than the 3% annual average growth rate since 2010. The 2016 total was 25% higher than the number of passengers carried in 2010 and nearly 50% higher than in 2005.
During the past decade, traffic growth has been driven primarily by low-cost carriers (LCCs) and international travel. LCCs have grown rapidly as an element of scheduled service aviation, particularly on domestic routes where they currently claim over 30% of the market. During the past decade, international travel has also experienced stronger growth with an average annual increase of 5%. In comparison, domestic traffic has only increased an average of 2% per year during that same time period.
The industry has also been able to achieve this growth while maintaining safety performance and reducing its environmental impact. Scheduled service airlines have reduced their emissions intensity (CO2 per revenue passenger mile) by nearly 20 percent since 2005, and overall accident rates for scheduled service airlines are at their lowest level since the dawn of commercial aviation.
Air travel is the safest form of transportation. Air travel is the safest form of transportation, much safer than traveling by car, train or boat. There were zero fatalities from commercial airline accidents in the United States in 2017, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
According to Bloomberg News, global airline safety improved in 2017 over 2016 for a second year in a row. The article reported “there were 32 fatal airliner accidents and 44 fatalities last year.” Compared with 2016’s 16 accidents and 303 deaths, 2017 was even safer.
According to a survey by AirHelp, an air passenger rights company based in Berlin, Germany, the United States has some of the safest airlines in the world. Out of the top 20 world airlines ranked each year, eight are U.S.-based: Alaska Airlines (ranked
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for global air freight markets showing that demand, measured in freight tonne kilometers (FTKs), rose 2.6% in 2012 compared to 2011. This was the slowest growth since 2009, with the exception of the sharp contraction experienced in 2010 when demand for air cargo dropped 6.3%.
In 2012 there was a slowdown in growth from Asia-Pacific airlines, which saw FTKs increase 2.1% compared to an increase of 7.3% in 2011. This was the smallest increase since 2003. European airlines saw their cargo volumes fall by 0.9%, following a 1% drop in 2011, while North American carriers reported an improvement, with FTKs climbing 3.2%, compared to a 1.4% increase in 2011. Middle Eastern carriers saw the fastest growth (17%), followed by Latin American carriers (5%) and African airlines (0.9%).
In December 2012, FTKs increased 4.8% compared to December 2011 which was slightly lower than the 5% annual growth rate recorded for November 2012 year-on-year. Year-to-date growth stood at 3.5%.
“The air cargo business is still searching for its new normal,” said
Air travelers in America used to have it pretty good. For decades, the federal government kept fares low by directly setting ticket prices on flights between cities. In 1978, that changed. In a few short years, the federal government deregulated the airlines, opening up air travel to market forces like any other consumer good.
Today, this change is taken for granted (and rarely lamented), but at the time many people were concerned that allowing market forces to reign would mean that only the wealthy would be able to afford to fly. In retrospect, that concern seems misguided: despite occasional fare hikes and hidden fees, flying is actually cheaper now than it was before deregulation. In real terms, fares are down 13 percent since 1978.
The benefits of deregulation are clear enough: it has allowed airlines to compete on price and make air travel less expensive for all of us. But cheap flight prices come with some costs, too. Before deregulation, the business of flying was relatively stable; after it, airlines began a long downturn punctuated by bankruptcy filings and mergers.