Commercial airlines flew 3.8 billion passengers in 2016, a 7% increase approximately equivanelt to 242 million additional air trips -- over the previous year, according to IATA’s 2017 World Air Transport Statistics (WATS) report, released Oct. 9.

Asia-Pacific carriers transported the largest portion (35%) of the world’s commercial passengers, 1.3 billion, which in 2016 was an 11.3% year-over-year (YOY) increase, or approximately 132 million additional passengers in one year. European airlines carried 26% of the world’s passengers (992.4 million in 2016, up 6.1% YOY, or approximately 57 million passengers), followed by North American airlines, which carried 24% of the market (911.5 million in 2016, up 3% YOY, or about 27 million additional passengers).

All of the world’s top five most highly-traveled international-regional routes were in Asia. Hong Kong-Taipei was the largest route, with 5.2 million passengers in 2016; followed by Jakarta-Singapore (3.4 million passengers); Bangkok Suvarnabhumi-Hong Kong (3 million); Kuala Lumpur-Singapore (2.8 million) and Hong Kong-Seoul (2.8 million).

The Asia-Pacific region also had the world’s highest-traveled domestic city-pair routes, with the route between Jeju, South Korea and Seoul’s Gimpo International Airport the busiest, with 11.6 million passengers in 2016; followed by Sapporo-Tokyo Haneda (7.7 million); Fukuoka–Tokyo Haneda (7.3 million); Melbourne-Sydney (7.3 million) and Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City (6.4 million).

Global passengers flew mostly on network carriers in 2016 (69.5%), followed by LCCs with 28.3%, which was a 1.2% increase over 2016, and leisure carriers with 2.2% of all passengers.

US carriers led the rankings by numbers of scheduled passengers carried. Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, with 158.8 million domestic and international passengers, took the top place, followed by Dallas/Fort Worth-based American Airlines (144.2 million); Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines (143.3 million); China Southern Airlines (114.5 million); and Irish LCC Ryanair (112 million).

FedEx Express was the world’s largest schedule-service air freight carrier with 7.1 million freight tones carried in 2016, followed by UPS (4.7 million freight tons); Emirates Airlines (2.5 million freight tons); Qatar Airways (1.8 million freight tons) and Cathay Pacific Airways (1.6 million freight tons).

Ranked by nationality of passengers, the US contributes the largest portion (810 million, or 21%) of the world’s commercial airline passengers. For international travel, US citizens are the most prevalent, making up 9.5%, followed by citizens from the UK (7.8%), Germany (6.5%), China (6.4%) and France (4.1%).  US citizens are also the predominant domestic travelers, at 29.9%, followed by citizens in China (19%), India (5.2%), Indonesia (4.4%) and Japan (3.5%).

Further information on IATA’s WATS report can be found here.

Mark Nensel