The Global Airline Scene – 100 Years and Counting!

Commercial aviation began 100 years ago with a single aircraft, a single passenger and a single route. Last year more than three billion passengers and nearly 48 million tonnes of cargo were carried on nearly 100,000 flights per day, while the real price of air travel fell by 7.4 per cent, according to latest data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in its World Air Transport Statistics (WATS) yearbook, published this month.

It is an amazing growth story, but, as Tony Tyler, director general and chief executive officer, IATA, noted, aviation’s annual contribution exceeds even these impressive figures. “Its global economic impact is estimated at $2.4 trillion and it supports 3.4 per cent of global GDP.  By value, over a third of goods traded internationally are delivered by air and some 58.1 million jobs are supported by aviation,” he said.

The global aviation system carried 3.129 billion passengers on scheduled services in 2013, up 5.1 per cent on 2012 with the Asia-Pacific region holding the top spot in the world’s network (based on total passengers carried on scheduled services by airlines registered in that region). In 2013, 1.012 billion passengers flew in the region, up 9.3 per cent on 2012.

Europe was ranked second with 825.9 million passengers, up 3.4 per cent; North America was third with 818.9 million, up 0.7 per cent; while Latin America and the Caribbean (240.5 million, up 7.6 per cent), the Middle East (157.9 million, an increase of 8.8 per cent) and Africa (73.8 million, 5.6 per cent) followed.

The fast expanding Chinese and United Arab Emirates (UAE) markets dominate in their regions with double digit growth (based on domestic and international passengers carried both-ways) although the United States is still the largest single air market in the world, in terms of total two-way traffic, international and domestic. The Chinese aviation market exceeded 400 million, growing 11.8 per cent to 404.2 million, while the UAE, the largest market in the Middle East grew 11.7 per cent to 45.3 million.

South Africa remains the largest aviation market in Africa despite a 0.1 per cent decline to 20.4 million passengers last year, with Brazil (92.9 million, an increase of 4.5 per cent over 2012), the United States (618.1 million, an increase of 3.3 per cent) and the UK (177.9 million, up 3.7 per cent on 2102), the largest aviation markets in Latin America and the Caribbean, North America and Europe, respectively.

The strength of the US market and in particular US airlines operating in their home environment mean that its carriers hold four of the top five positions in terms of global scheduled passengers carried in 2013, see graph, below.

It is the European carriers that dominate the international ranking last year, most notably the low-cost carriers with Ryanair carrying 81.39 million passengers and easyJet 52.78 million. Lufthansa is the largest legacy airline in the international market (3rd with 50.73 million passengers) and Emirates Airline the largest carrier from outside the continent (4th with 43.33 million passengers). US carriers United Airlines (25.00 million passengers) and Delta Air Lines (23.08 million) are largest North American operators in the international market and ranked ninth and tenth, respectively.

Given the size of the Chinese and US markets it is no surprise that airlines from these two countries dominate the domestic ranking. Again, it is a low-cost carrier that leads the analysis with Southwest Airlines the largest global domestic operator handling 115.32 million passengers in 2013. The US majors follow with Delta Air Lines (2nd with 97.55 million passengers), United Airlines (4th with 65.15 million passengers), American Airlines (5th with 65.10 million passengers) and US Airways (7th with 50.15 million passengers) all ranked in the top ten. China Southern Airlines is the largest domestic carrier outside of the US and ranked 4th with 84.16 million passengers, while China Eastern Airlines, Air China, All Nippon Airways and Qantas complete the top ten.

According to IATA’s WATS, airlines added over 1,100 direct airport-pair services and 600,000 frequencies in 2013, for a new total of 50,000 direct airport-pair services and 31.5 million frequencies. The top three city-pairs in 2013 based on passengers carried on international routes were: Hong Kong - Taipei (4.9 million, down 11.5 per cent on 2012), Dublin - London (3.6 million, up 6.9 per cent) and Jakarta - Singapore (3.4 million, up 8.6 per cent), while the top three city-pairs based on passengers carried on domestic routes were Jeju - Seoul (9.58 million, up 1.4 per cent on 2012), Sapporo - Tokyo (9.17 million, up 4.7 per cent) and Fukuoka - Tokyo (8.34 million, up 9.3 per cent).

Globally, cargo experienced weak growth in 2013, according to IATA data, with freight tonne kilometers up only 1.8 per cent compared to 2012. However, this represents a reversal of the 1.1 per cent shrinkage over 2011. The top five airlines ranked by total scheduled freight tonnes carried were Federal Express (7.1 million), UPS Airlines (4.1 million), Emirates Airline (2.1 million), Korean Air (1.4 million) and Cathay Pacific Airways (1.3 million).

Over the course of this year at our regional forums, The HUB has produced geographical reports looking at the air transport landscape across particular regions of the world. These highlight the largest airlines and airports in each part of the world in 2013 based on seat capacity within and from the region and compare this data with the previous year to view which markets are developing and those witnessing declines. The data is all supplied by OAG Aviation using its OAG Schedules Analyser tool.

You can view the reports, below:

Air Transport Capacity in South America – A Market Snapshot

Air Transport Capacity in the Caribbean – A Market Snapshot

Air Transport Capacity in North America – A Market Snapshot

Air Transport Capacity in South East Asia - A Market Snapshot

Air Transport Capacity in North East Asia - A Market Snapshot

Air Transport Capacity in South Asia - A Market Snapshot

Air Transport Capacity in Central Asia - A Market Snapshot

Air Transport Capacity in South West Pacific - A Market Snapshot

Air Transport Capacity in Western Europe - A Market Snapshot

Air Transport Capacity in Central and Eastern Europe - A Market Snapshot

Air Transport Capacity in Northern Africa – A Market Snapshot

Air Transport Capacity in Eastern Africa – A Market Snapshot

Air Transport Capacity in Southern Africa – A Market Snapshot

Air Transport Capacity in Central and Western Africa – A Market Snapshot

Air Transport Capacity in Middle East – A Market Snapshot