The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has unveiled its first 20-year passenger growth forecast, which projects passenger numbers close to 7.3 billion by 2034.

This represents a 4.1% average annual growth in air connectivity demand, which will lead to more than double the 3.3 billion passengers that are expected to travel this year.

The report has also suggested that China will leave behind the US to become the world’s largest passenger market in terms of traffic to, from and within by 2030. By 2034, the number of passengers to and from China will reach 1.3 billion, which is 856 million more than 2014. This projects an annual growth rate of 5.5%.

US’s passenger traffic will reach 1.2 billion passengers by 2034, which is an increase of 559 million than the 2014 numbers and a growth of 3.2%.

"Air connectivity on this scale will help transform economic opportunities for millions of people."

According to the findings, the five fastest-increasing markets in terms of additional passengers per year by 2034 will be China (856 million new passengers a year), the US (559 million), India (266 million), Indonesia (183 million) and Brazil (170 million).

IATA’s new passenger forecasting service has released this report with Tourism Economics, which analyses passenger flows across 4,000 country pairs for the next 20 years. It forecasts passenger numbers taking into consideration three crucial demand drivers, namely standard of living, population and demographics, and price and availability.

In terms of percentage, eight of the fastest growing markets will be in Africa, including the Central African Republic, Madagascar, Tanzania, Burundi and Kuwait.

Country-pairs such as India-Pakistan, Kuwait-Thailand, UAE-Ethiopia, Colombia-Ecuador and intra-Honduras travel will see a growth of at least 9.5% on an average for the next 20 years. The fastest growing pair will be Indonesia-East Timor, which will grow by 14.9%.

Speaking about the findings, IATA director general and CEO Tony Tyler 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. At present, aviation helps sustain 58 million jobs and $2.4 trillion in economic activity. In 20 years’ time, we can expect aviation to be supporting around 105 million jobs and $6tr in GDP."

Having recognised the impact of air travel on the environment, the aviation industry has committed to reduce its carbon footprint.

The report said that there will be a 1.5% annual fuel efficiency improvement and the capping of net emissions through carbon-neutral growth by 2020. It has also predicted that there will be a 50% cut in net emissions by 2050.

Image: IATA has forecasted 4.1% average annual growth in passenger traffic by 2034. Photo: courtesy of khunaspix at