Infrastructure ‘Crisis’ Will Hit Air Travel in Coming Years, Industry Body Says

Dec 14, 2018

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A crisis is looming over the international aviation industry, a top airline organization said Wednesday. It’s not pilot shortages or gas prices that have these experts concerned — it’s airport infrastructure.

“We are approaching an infrastructure crisis,” Alexandre de Juniac, president of the International Aviation Transportation Association, said at the organization’s annual media day. In some places, de Juniac added, the crisis has already begun and is on track to only get worse as the amount of global air travelers increase exponentially in the next two decades.

IATA says that because existing infrastructure can’t meet air travel demand globally, the international aviation industry is entering a “capacity crisis.”

The issue is obvious for anyone who has stepped foot in a major airport anywhere in the world recently and has been overwhelmed by crowds. Major airports all over the globe are already feeling the pressure from the current number of passengers. In a recent IATA poll, passengers reported they feel that airports are already overcrowded —most of us would agree with that poll. Imagine how we are going to feel in five, 10 or 20 years.

To calculate its report airport capacity shortages, IATA did just that: looked at the next 20 years and its projected growth and requirements of the aviation industry. Below are the report’s key points:

  • Passenger numbers are set to double by 2037, reaching 8.2 billon worldwide
  • China will see 1 billon new passengers by 2037
  • Almost 1/3 of the global trade relies on aviation, representing $20 billion per day
  • European air travel delays skyrocketed in 2018, compared to 2017, to more than 14 million minutes, which equates to 26 years worth of extra wait times for passengers.
  • Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa will see continued substantial growth over the next two decades

All of the report’s projections show significant capacity increases over last year’s report. It’s clear that the global aviation industry is on track for some serious growing pains over the next two decades, especially because increasing capacity and addressing infrastructure is painstaking work with a serious price tag.

The required investments — if done smartly — will help ease issues with the expected growth in coming years. For those of us who spend many hours a year navigating the globe via air travel, we can only hope that de Juniac, a former Chairman and CEO of AirFrance-KLM, and the IATA’s push for the industry and governments to work together to address this issue is successful.

Because if you think the lines at check-in and security are long now, just think where we are headed in the near future.

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