Airports Council International World’s annual World Airport Traffic Forecasts (WATF) has revealed that the airport industry is engaged in ‘a high-wire balancing act’ as it prepares to meet surging global demand for air services.
Having reached 8.8 billion in 2018, global traffic is forecast to double by 2037. Over the long term it is projected to grow at an annualized rate of 3.7%, reaching 19.7 billion by 2040. China is projected to become the largest passenger market in 2031 and to dominate passenger rankings by 2040, with more than 3.5 billion passengers – an 18% share of the global passenger traffic market.
The USA and India will follow, with 2.9 and 1.3 billion passengers respectively. Together the three countries will handle almost 40% of global passenger traffic. Indonesia, currently the 10th largest market in terms of total passenger traffic worldwide, is expected to move rapidly through the country rankings, reaching fourth place by 2036.
In meeting this strong demand, the airport industry faces a balancing act. Airport operators already face capacity constraints and the predicament of surging air transport demand outstripping available airport infrastructure. At the same time, the industry must contend with increased protectionism, isolationism, and risks associated with climate change that could stifle this growth.
“There is no doubt that the future of the industry is positive, with ACI’s forecasts showing passenger traffic worldwide is expected to double to more than 17 billion by 2037,” ACI World director general Angela Gittens said.
“While it is evident that air transport very much relies on open markets to grow, it is also evident that, in markets with strong air transport demand, airport operators already face capacity constraints that could limit growth.
Gittens continued, “Action must be taken to address this growing infrastructure gap. Given that more than 200 airports already require slot coordination because they have insufficient capacity to meet demand, government regulators must come together with the aviation industry to ensure that existing capacity can be better utilized while facilitating new and improved infrastructure to improve efficiency and the passenger experience.
“The consequences of inaction are stark. We see, for example, that Eurocontrol projects that 1.5 million flights – the equivalent of 160 million passengers – will be unable to fly by 2040. An estimated 470,000 passengers will be delayed one to two hours per day in 2040, compared with 50,000 delayed passengers per day in 2016.”