This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released its annual report detailing all of the aviation statistics you could imagine — and last year was a record for the airline industry.
More than 4.1 billion travelers flew on scheduled service in 2017, a record for any 12-month period. That represents a 7.3% increase over 2016 and is 280 million more trips than the year before.
IATA says the growth was supported by a strong global economy and cheaper airfares.
“At the same time, airlines connected a record number of cities worldwide, providing regular services to more than 20,000 city pairs in 2017, more than double the level of 1995,” the organization said in a statement. “Such increases in direct services improve the industry’s efficiency by cutting costs and saving time for both travelers and shippers alike.”
American legacy carriers maintained their dominance for the world’s busiest airlines, but Middle Eastern, Chinese and low-cost carriers aren’t too far behind. These are the top airlines by total scheduled passenger kilometers flown:
- American Airlines (324 million)
- Delta Air Lines (316.3 million)
- United Airlines (311 million)
- Emirates Airline (289 million)
- Southwest Airlines (207.7 million)
- China Southern Airlines (177.5 million)
- Ryanair (157 million)
- Lufthansa (152.2 million)
- China Eastern Airlines (151 million)
- Air China (147 million)
Not only do American carriers fly the most, but US citizens came in first place for the amount of trips taken:
- United States of America (632 million, representing 18.6% of all passengers)
- People’s Republic of China (555 million or 16.3% of all passengers)
- India (161.5 million or 4.7% of all passengers)
- United Kingdom (147 million or 4.3% of all passengers)
- Germany (114.4 million or 3.4% of all passengers)
Star Alliance continues to be the strongest airline alliance, receiving 22% of total scheduled traffic while SkyTeam came in with 19% and Oneworld at 16%.
IATA also delved into some of the traffic numbers on specific routes, finding that the busiest international airline routes were all in the Asia Pacific region:
- Hong Kong — Taipei Taoyuan (5.4 million, up 1.8% from 2016)
- Jakarta Soekarno — Hatta-Singapore (3.3 million, up 0.8% from 2016)
- Bangkok Suvarnabhumi — Hong Kong (3.1 million, increase of 3.5% from 2016)
- Kuala Lumpur — Singapore (2.8 million, down. 0.3% from 2016)
- Hong Kong — Seoul Incheon (2.7 million, down 2.2% from 2016)
While airline revenue is down over the last few years, profits are at an all time high. The airline industry displayed an operating result of nearly $38 billion — indicating that these companies are more efficient than ever.
“In 2000, the average citizen flew just once every 43 months. In 2017, the figure was once every 22 months,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “Flying has never been more accessible. And this is liberating people to explore more of our planet for work, leisure and education. Aviation is the business of freedom.”
Know before you go.
News and deals straight to your inbox every day.
NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 points! With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 60,000 point sign up bonus worth up to $1,200 in value, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards