50% of world’s population flew in 2016

Passengers at Osaka's Kansai International Airport
Passengers at Osaka’s Kansai International Airport

A total of 3.7 billion air passengers took scheduled flights in 2016 – the equivalent of almost half of the global population.

According to the preliminary data released by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the full-year total marks a 6.0% increase compared to 2015. The number of worldwide scheduled flights rose to approximately 35 million. This means that the average scheduled flight carried approximately 106 passengers.

In revenue passenger kilometre (RPK) terms however, the growth of 6.3% in 2016 marks a slowdown compared to 2015’s 7.1% increase. Growth was strongest in the Middle East (+11.2%), followed by Asia Pacific (8.0%), Latin America (6.5%), Africa (5.7%), Europe (4.3%) and North America (3.5%).

Despite its relatively sluggish growth, Europe still accounted for the largest share of international RPKs in 2016, with 36%. Asia Pacific was second with 29%, while the Middle East surged into third place with a 15% share, driven by the growth of the major Gulf carriers.

More than half of people of travelled across an international border last year were transported by air.

North America, led by the US, remains the world’s largest domestic market with 43% share of global scheduled traffic, followed by Asia Pacific (40%), which was driven by the strength of the Chinese and Indian domestic markets.

Low-cost carriers accounted for approximately 28% of the world total scheduled passengers in 2016, crossing the milestone of one billion passengers for the first time. LCCs in Europe represented 32% of total passengers carried by LCCs, followed by Asia Pacific (31%) and North America (25%). ICAO noted that the growth of LCCs was most notable in emerging economies.

An increase in global seat capacity however, has led to a decline in airline load factors, which dipped to a global average of 80.3% in 2016.

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