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Airline group forecasts steady passenger growth through 2016

Despite the ups and downs of the global economy, airline passenger traffic is expected to maintain a steady increase on both domestic and international routes for the foreseeable future, according to a new report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA)—but for U.S. carriers, growth will be slower than in the rest of the world.

IATA said it expects to see worldwide passenger numbers rise by 5.3 percent annually from 2012 through 2016. “The 28.5 percent increase in passengers over the forecast period will see almost 500 million new passengers traveling on domestic routes and 331 million new passengers on international services,” the group said.

But it won’t be evenly distributed geographically. Of the total passenger increase of 831 million, IATA said, 23 percent will be on routes within, into, or out of China. The fastest-growing regions for air travel will be Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East, IATA said. By 2016, air travel within the Asia-Pacific region will account for 33 percent of passenger numbers worldwide, up from 29 percent in 2011.

Meanwhile, “Reflecting the maturity of the United States market, growth rates (2.6 percent for domestic and 4.3 percent for international) will be well below the international average (5.3 percent for international travel and 5.2 percent for domestic traffic),” IATA said.

Although the U.S. won’t keep up with the growth rate of other regions, it remains the world’s largest national market for both domestic and international passengers, IATA noted.

Passenger traffic within the Asia-Pacific region is expected to show a 6.7 percent compound annual growth rate, IATA forecast. The comparable annual growth rates will be 6.8 percent for Africa, 6.6 percent for the Middle East, 5.8 percent for Latin America and 4.4 percent for Europe.


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