Some 2.9 billion people used air transport to help them realise their business and tourism needs in 2012, according to preliminary figures on scheduled services released recently by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The annualised passenger figure is up 5 per cent since 2011 and is expected to reach over 6 billion by 2030, according to current projections.
Total scheduled passenger traffic grew at a rate of 5.5 per cent* in 2012, a one percentage point decrease compared to last year’s growth rate. This is a reflection of positive economic results worldwide, despite slow economic growth in some regions and the implementation of fiscal austerity policies in key European economies.
The Asia/Pacific region was the world’s largest air transport market in 2012, with a 30 per cent share in terms of world RPKs. The Middle East region, accounting for 8 per cent of the world RPKs, recorded the fastest growth rate at 16.8 per cent in 2012 compared to 2011.
International and domestic passenger traffic
International traffic grew by 6.5 per cent in 2012, the same rate as the previous year. The highest growth for international traffic was registered by the airlines of the Middle East followed by Latin America and the Caribbean. African carriers registered growth almost seven times higher than their 2011 results, at 7.4 per cent compared to 1.1 per cent.
This makes Africa the third fastest growing international market in 2012, mainly due to the improved performance of airlines registered in North Africa due to increased political stability in the sub-region. The Asia/Pacific region recorded slower growth than last year, mainly due to lower economic results and the poor performance of Indian and Malaysian carriers. North America, despite the decent performance of Canadian carriers, registered the lowest growth rate of all international markets. This growth, however, still represents a significant increase in terms of volume. Domestically in 2012, markets grew by 3.9 per cent over 2011. This growth was mainly driven by strong demand for domestic air travel in the Asia/Pacific, Latin America/Caribbean and the Middle East regions. Countries which contributed significantly to these regional results included China, Australia, Indonesia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Japan was also a noteworthy contributor to Asia/Pacific growth as its domestic market showed signs of recovery in 2012.
The European domestic market declined in 2012, due to financial issues for some carriers and a deteriorating national and regional economic environment. Some major European airlines ceased operations or recorded large losses, notably in Spain, Italy, Greece and Finland. These latter States have recorded the lowest growth during 2012 within the largest domestic markets in Europe.
The overall air transport capacity offered by airlines, expressed in available seat-kilometres (ASKs), increased globally by 4.0 per cent in 2012. The overall load factor increased slightly at just over one point compared to 2011.
On the air cargo side, traffic expressed in freight ton-kilometres (FTKs) posted a decline of about 1.2 per cent leading to approximately 51 million tons of freight carried. This reflects much slower growth in global trade in 2012 than in 2011. Moreover, the heavier economic climate in Europe, coupled with a slowdown in Chinese exports and strong competition in maritime transport, adversely affected cargo traffic.
The world’s two major aircraft manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing, are expected to have delivered more than 940 new aircraft in 2012 and they have recorded an impressive number of orders, approaching 1,500 new aircraft, to be delivered in the coming years. Together with a more efficient operational process implemented by the airline industry, as well as an improved air traffic management system, these environmental-friendly aircraft will contribute positively to the sustainability of air transport development.