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China is expected to account for 193 million of the 831 million expected new air passengers by 2016. AP Photo / Greg Baker
China is expected to account for 193 million of the 831 million expected new air passengers by 2016. AP Photo / Greg Baker

Air travel flying high as 3.6bn passengers expected by 2016

Air passenger traffic is forecast to increase by almost 30 per cent, with the Middle East region expected to have the third-highest rate of growth.

The number of passengers carried annually by the world's airlines will hit 3.6 billion within four years, jumping almost 30 per cent on 2011's figures, according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

The emerging economies of Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East will see the strongest passenger growth, led by routes within or connected to China, which will account for 193 million of the 831 million expected new passengers, Iata said.

The Middle East alone is expected to have the third-fastest passenger growth rate in the world at 6.6 per cent, according to Iata's Airline Industry Forecast 2012-2016.

It sees global passenger numbers expanding by an average of 5.3 per cent per annum between 2012 and 2016. The 28.5 per cent increase over the forecast period will see almost 500 million new passengers traveling on domestic routes and 331 million new passengers on international services.

Middle East international freight demand is forecast to grow at 4.9 per cent, the strongest growth among the regions, while international freight volumes worlwide will grow at just 3 per cent per annum to total 34.5 million tonnes in 2016, a jump of 4.8 million tonnes of air cargo over the 29.6 million tonnes carried in 2011.

The United States will continue to be the largest single market for domestic passengers at 710.2 million. In the same year, passengers on international routes connected to the United States will total 223 million, making it the largest single market for international travel as well.

"Despite the current economic uncertainty, expected demand for connectivity remains strong. That's good news for the global economy," said Tony Tyler, Iata's Director General and chief executive.

"Growing air transport links generate jobs and underpin economic growth in all economies... But exploiting these will require governments to recognise aviation's value with policies that do not stifle innovation, tax regimes that do not punish success and investments to enable infrastructure to keep up with growth."

According to the forecast, five of the 10 fastest-growing countries are in the Middle East North Africa region, reflecting it's growing importance in international air freight. The largest international freight market is the United States at 7.7 million tonnes, while the United Arab Emirates ranks sixth place with 2.5 million tonnes.

Freight carriage within the Asia-Pacific region will account for around 30 per cent of the expected total increase in freight tonnage over the period. Globally, aviation supports some 57 million jobs and $2.2 trillion in economic activity.


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