A record 4.1 billion passengers were carried by the aviation industry on scheduled services in 2017, according to preliminary figures released by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

This indicates a 7.1% increase over 2016. The number of departures rose to approximately 37 million globally, and world passenger traffic, expressed in terms of total scheduled revenue passenger-kilometres (RPKs), posted an increase of 7.6% with approximately 7.7 trillion RPKs performed. This growth is a slight improvement from the 7.4% achieved in 2016.

ICAO Council President, Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, said: “The sustainability of the tremendous growth in international civil air traffic is demonstrated by the continuous improvements to its safety, security, efficiency and environmental footprint. This sustainability is the result of concerted efforts and cooperation at the national, regional, and global levels, particularly in terms of ICAO compliancy, which is key to accessing the global network.”

The analysis finds that air travel demand growth has gained solid momentum, supported by ongoing improvement in global economic conditions throughout the year. World real gross domestic product (GDP) growth is projected to be at 2.7% in 2017, up from 2.4% in 2016, and is expected to further strengthen to 2.9% in 2018.

Low-cost carriers on the up

The report also shows that low-cost carriers (LCCs) consistently grew at a faster pace compared to the world average growth, and its market share continues to increase, specifically in emerging economies. In 2017, the LCCs carried an estimated 1.2 billion passengers, and accounted for approximately 30% of the world total scheduled passengers. LCCs in Europe represented 33% of total passengers carried by LCCs, followed by Asia/Pacific and North America with 31% and 26%, respectively.

Air cargo also saw a strong rebound in 2017. World scheduled freight traffic, measured in freight tonne-kilometres (FTK) grew by 9.5% in 2017, a significant improvement from the 3.8% growth registered in 2016. The international segment of freight traffic, which represents nearly 87% of total air freight, grew by around 10.3%, up from the 3.7% growth in 2016. The scheduled international freight load factor also improved, from around 53% in 2016 to 55% in 2017.

The ICAO says: “Improving economic conditions forecasted by the World Bank could see traffic growth and profitability momentum continuing in 2018.”

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