IATA predicts air passengers will double to 7.3bn within 20 years

THE number of people taking to the skies each year is expected to more than double within the next two decades, the airline industry’s trade body said yesterday.

The IATA said 3.3 billion passengers are expected to travel this year. Picture: Julie Howden

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) also forecast India could overtake the UK to become the world’s third-largest air travel market in 2031. Publishing its first 20-year growth forecast, the IATA predicted global passenger numbers would reach 7.3 billion by 2034, with China set to surpass the US as the world’s biggest market.

The IATA, which represents about 240 global airlines, said 3.3 billion passengers are expected to travel this year, and the overall market is set to grow by 4.1 per cent a year over the coming two decades.

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While Asia-Pacific is predicted to enjoy annual growth rates of 4.9 per cent and North America 3.3 per cent, Europe is set to have the slowest growth at 2.7 per cent. By 2030, China is forecast to overtake the US as the largest passenger market, in terms of passengers travelling to, from and within the country.

Tony Tyler, the IATA’s director-general, said: “It is an exciting prospect to think that in the next 20 years more than twice as many passengers as today will have the chance to fly. Air connectivity on this scale will help transform economic opportunities for millions of people.”

Tyler said that, by 2034, the aviation sector could support about 105 million jobs – against 58 million today – and contribute $6 trillion (£3.8tn) to the global economy. He added: “Air connectivity can only thrive when nations open their skies and markets. It’s a virtuous circle. Growing connectivity stimulates economies [which] demand greater connectivity.”

Lang Banks, director of environmental campaign group WWF Scotland, said: “If aviation were a country, it would be amongst the top ten largest contributors to climate change on the planet.

“Despite all the promised efficiency gains, the growth in passenger numbers and flights predicted by the industry are totally incompatible with the need to curb emissions from this sector.”