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China’s ascendancy in global air travel market

Beijing Daxing Airport Aerial View
Beijing Daxing Airport Aerial View

The ACI World’s 2023-2052 forecast highlights China’s emergence as a dominant player in the global air travel market, driven by robust economic growth, urbanization, and increasing disposable incomes, significantly impacting global passenger traffic dynamics.

Montreal – Airports Council International (ACI) World releases the annual World Airport Traffic Forecasts (WATF) 2023­–2052 dataset, showing the Top 20 markets for air travel demand among other key air traffic findings.

The latest WATF extends its horizon by an impressive 10 years, offering a comprehensive 30-year perspective on airport traffic forecasts at global, regional, and country levels. The flagship resource covers data sourced from 141 countries, introducing 29 new countries, to provide granular forecasts for passengers, air cargo volumes (in metric tonnes) and aircraft movements.

In the rapidly evolving landscape of global air travel, China stands out as a pivotal force shaping the future of the aviation industry. According to the latest World Airport Traffic Forecasts (WATF) 2023–2052 by Airports Council International (ACI) World, China is poised to play a central role in the shift of air travel demand from advanced economies to emerging and developing markets. This transformation is underpinned by China’s significant urbanization, burgeoning middle class, and substantial economic growth, which collectively enhance the disposable income and travel propensity of its population. The ACI’s comprehensive dataset underscores the importance of investing in aviation infrastructure to accommodate the anticipated surge in passenger traffic, emphasizing China’s influence in driving global trends and necessitating a strategic response to sustainably harness the social and economic benefits of aviation expansion.

ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said: “The projections indicate that global passenger traffic is set to reach 9.7 billion by the end of 2024, surpassing pre-pandemic levels, and suggest a doubling by 2042 and a 2.5-fold increase by 2052. In the long-term, the global passenger market dynamic is expected to transition from advanced economies towards emerging and developing ones as they experience significant urbanization and population increases, often combined with rapid economic growth favourably impacting their disposable income and willingness to travel. Investing responsibly in current and new infrastructure remains key to ensuring that we can sustainably meet capacity growth to maximize the social and economic benefits of aviation.”

Highlights from WATF Executive Summary include:
  • By the end of 2024, global passenger traffic is expected to reach 9.7 billion, surpassing the 2019 level for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Global passenger traffic is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3% from 2023 to 2042 and 3.6% from 2042 to 2052.
  • Global passenger numbers are forecasted to approximately double from 2024 to 2042 and to be 2.5 times higher in 2052.
  • By 2024, international passenger traffic is forecasted to approach the 4 billion mark, with domestic passenger traffic reaching 5.7 billion.
  • Looking ahead to 2042, international passenger traffic is expected to reach 8.7 billion and domestic passenger traffic to attain 10.6 billion.
  • In the long-term, the global passenger market dynamic is expected to shift, transitioning from advanced economies towards emerging and developing economies.
  • Between 2023 and 2042, advanced economies are expected to have a CAGR of 3.2% for total passenger traffic, whereas emerging and developing economies are expected to have a more robust CAGR of 5.4%.
  • Sizeable population bases and rapid rises in incomes in emerging markets are the main economic engines driving air transportation demand.
Top 20 markets by total passenger traffic forecast

Along with the WATF, ACI World has issued its first bi-annual air travel demand update of 2024, “ACI World Advisory Bulletin: The most trusted source for air travel demand updates.”


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Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.