IATA sees number of air travellers in India more than tripling to 478 mn by 2036

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects the number of air passengers in India to more than triple to 478 million in 2036 from 141 million passengers in 2016, on the back of strong demand.

The grouping of international airlines has projected a near doubling of air passengers across the world to 7.8 billion in 2036, from around 4 billion air travelers expected to fly this year.

The prediction is based on a 3.6 per cent average Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) noted in the release of the latest update to the association's 20-Year Air Passenger Forecast.

"All indicators lead to growing demand for global connectivity. The world needs to prepare for a doubling of passengers in the next 20 years. It's fantastic news for innovation and prosperity, which is driven by air links. It is also a huge challenge for governments and industry to ensure we can successfully meet this essential demand," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's director general and CEO.

The biggest driver of demand will be the Asia-Pacific region, IATA said. The region will be the source of more than half the new passengers over the next two decades.

The point at which China will displace the United States as the world's largest aviation market (defined as traffic to, from and within the country) has moved two years closer since last year's forecast.

The IATA now anticipates this will occur around 2022, through a combination of slightly faster Chinese growth and slightly reduced growth in the US.

The UK will fall to fifth place, surpassed by India in 2025, and Indonesia in 2030. Thailand and Turkey will enter the top ten largest markets, while France and Italy will fall in the rankings to 11th and 12th, respectively.

However, IATA said maximising the potential benefits of aviation growth will depend on current levels of trade liberalisation and visa facilitation being maintained. If trade protectionism and travel restrictions are put in place, the benefits of air connectivity will decline as growth couldslow to 2.7 per cent, meaning 1.1 billion fewer passenger journeys annually in 2036.Conversely, if moves towards liberalisation increase, annual growth could be more than two percentage points faster, leading to a tripling in passengers over the next 20 years.

Planning for growth will require partnerships to be strengthened between the aviation industry, communities and governments to expand and modernize infrastructure, the IATA said.Runways, terminals, and ground access to airports will come under increasing strain. Innovative solutions to these challenges, as well as to the baggage and security processes, cargo handling, and other activities, will also be needed. And air traffic management needs urgent reform to cut delays, costs and emissions.

"Increasing demand will bring a significant infrastructure challenge. The solution does not lie in more complex processes or building bigger and bigger airports but in harnessing the power of new technology to move activity off-airport, streamline processes and improve efficiency. Through partnerships within the industry and beyond, we are confident that sustainable solutions for continued growth can be found," said de Juniac.