China set to surf regional growth wave to 2036, IATA predicts

26 October 2017
IATA expects China to overtake the United States as the number one aviation market in 2022 (pictured is Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport). Source: Getty

Passenger traffic growth in the coming decades will still be driven by the Asia-Pacific region as China is poised to surpass the United States as the biggest market, according to a 24 October update of the IATA 20-Year Air Passenger Forecast.

The central scenario describes a 3.6% compound annual growth rate for global passenger traffic, to reach 7.8 billion passengers in 2036. By comparison, IATA expects global passenger volume of about 4 million in 2017. The previous 20-year forecast update, released by IATA in October 2016, predicted a surge to 7.2 billion passengers by 2035, driven by Asia-Pacific markets and with average annual growth of 3.7%.

In its new update, IATA noted that the Asia-Pacific region “will be the source of more than half the new passengers over the next two decades”, adding that China is now expected to overtake the United States as the biggest national aviation market in 2022, “through a combination of slightly faster Chinese growth and slightly reduced growth in the US”. In the central forecast scenario, China is also expected to be the fastest-growing national market in 2036 compared with 2016, ahead of the US, India, Indonesia and Turkey.

The UK is expected to drop to fifth place, behind India and Indonesia, by 2036. Other new entrants in the top 10 largest markets include Thailand and Turkey, while France and Italy are predicted to drop out – underlining the continued eastward trend in aviation growth, away from mature markets.

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