7 Interesting Stats Revealed about Global Air Traffic

Oct 5, 2017

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Did you know North American airlines account for almost one-quarter of international air travel? And, believe it or not with oversold flights making news in the US, that flights on European carriers are more packed than the US?

On Thursday, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released international air traffic stats and trends from August. While only true aviation nerds would want to read the whole thing, there are some fascinating stats and trends discussed in the data. Here are some noteworthy items.

1. Worldwide Air Travel Increased 7.2% from August 2016 to August 2017

More people are taking to the skies than ever, with air travel growing at a healthy 7.2% over last year. While that number might not seem large, growth at 7.2% per year means that the global aviation market will double every 10 years.

2. European Airlines Have the Most Full Flights

With Ryanair leading with a jaw-dropping 97% load factor, European airlines sold around 88% of available seat miles for August 2017. North American airlines came in second with a 86.1% load factor. Within the North American market, the US domestic market was a slight drag with a 85.6% load in August.

3. India’s Domestic Market is Growing Spectacularly

Year-over-year India’s domestic market grew an incredible 16%, making August 2017 the 36th consecutive month of double-digit traffic growth. This level of growth is hard to fathom. At this rate, the market will more than double every five years.

That said, India’s domestic market is still relatively tiny, covering just 1.3% of the world’s air travel despite the fact that 18% of the Earth’s population is Indian. Even at its incredible 16% growth rate, India’s domestic market is decades away from matching the US domestic market — which makes up 15% of the world’s entire passenger air traffic.

IATA domestic traffic August 2017
Data courtesy of IATA (International Air Transport Association)

4. The Growth of Middle East Airlines is Slowing

Even after the end of the electronics ban, Middle Eastern airlines are having trouble keeping up the explosive growth of the last few years. Growing 5.5% from August 2016 to August 2017, the region wasn’t far behind the average growth worldwide. However, this 5.5% growth falls well below the region’s five-year average pace of 11.1%. This slowdown may be primarily driven by airlines being more cautious, as available seat miles grew by just 5.1% and planes were slightly more full in August 2017 than August 2016.

5. Australia’s Domestic Market is Contracting

Worldwide domestic traffic grew on average by 7.9% year-over-year in August. But there was one region that bucked the trend: Australia. Airlines there reduced their schedules by 2.9% year-over-year, leading to a slight 0.1% decrease in kilometers flown intra-Australia.

6. Two-Thirds of North American Carrier Air Traffic is Domestic

This may not be surprising considering the large relative size of the United States to countries in Europe, but 66% of revenue miles flown on North American carriers are on domestic flights. This makes North American airlines the most reliant of any on domestic traffic.

7. Only 4% of Middle Eastern Carrier Traffic is Domestic

On the flip side, the region least reliant on domestic traffic is the Middle East. Considering how most airlines based in the region, and especially in the United Arab Emirates, focus on long-haul flights and how compact Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are, it’s actually surprising that the domestic traffic figure is as high as 4%. A lot of it may be concentrated in Saudi Arabia.

Which of these figures surprised you?

Featured image by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy

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