800 million more air travellers by 2014: IATA

Eight-hundred million more people will travel by air by 2014, over a quarter of them from China, raising the need for more efficient traffic management and airports, IATA trade body said Monday.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecast an estimated 3.3 billion air travellers in three years' time, up 32 percent from the 2.5 billion in 2009.

"China will be the biggest contributor of new travellers," the global aviation trade body said in a news statement.

"Of the 800 million new travellers expected in 2014, 360 million (45 percent) will travel on Asia-Pacific routes and of those, 214 million will be associated with China," it said.

"The United States will remain the largest single country market for domestic passengers and international passengers."

China's rapidly expanding economy has seen the country's aviation sector grow at a blistering pace over the past few years on the back of an ever-growing middle class that has plenty of money to spend.

International aviation is also projected to handle 38 million tonnes of air cargo by 2014, up 46 percent from 26 million tonnes in 2009.

IATA director-general and chief executive Giovanni Bisignani said the growing quantity of air travellers and cargo will require "even more efficient air traffic management, airport facilities and security programmes."

He added that "industry and governments will be challenged to work together even more closely."

He said the industry would continue to feel the effects of the latest global economic crisis for some time, with sluggish growth expected in Europe and the United States, not only because they are mature markets.

"Lingering consumer debts, high unemployment and austerity measures will dampen growth rates," said Bisignani.

The fastest growing markets for international passenger traffic during the 2009-2014 period will be China, the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

Asian countries are registering the fastest market growth due in large part to the region leading the recovery from the latest global economic slump, stated Bisignani.

"In order to see why there's a shift in Asia... look at one number that is very important: GDP (gross domestic product)," he told reporters, citing double digit growth in China and Singapore last year as examples.

Bisignani also picked out China and the other regional powerhouse, India, to take up responsibilities commensurate with their growing clout in the aviation industry.

"Many others could have some ideas, but the strength to move things is substantially in China and India," he said.

The Middle East is forecast to be the fastest growing region, with international passenger demand expected to rise 9.4 percent, followed by Africa at 7.7 percent, Asia-Pacific at 7.6 percent, Latin America (5.7 percent), North America (4.9 percent) and Europe (4.7 percent).

IATA in December raised its overall forecast for airline earnings in 2010 to a record $15.1 billion but warned that profits would slide to $9.1 billion this year.

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