The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has reported a total of 4.3 billion passengers were carried by air transport on scheduled services in 2018, according to its preliminary figures.
ICAO said this indicates a 6.1 per cent increase over 2017. The number of departures rose to approximately 38 million globally, and world passenger traffic, expressed in terms of total scheduled revenue passenger-kilometres (RPKs), grew solidly at 6.7 per cent and reached approximately 8.2 trillion RPKs performed. This growth is a slowdown from the 7.9 per cent achieved in 2017.
Over half of the world’s 1.4 billion tourists who travelled across international borders last year were transported by air, and that air transport now carries some 35 per cent of world trade by value. Indeed, around 90 per cent of cross border Business-to-Consumer (B2C) e-commerce was carried by air transport.
ICAO said low-cost carriers (LCCs) consistently grew at a faster pace than the world average growth, and its market share continued to increase, both in advanced and emerging economies.
In 2018, the LCCs carried an estimated 1.3 billion passengers, and accounted for approximately 31 per cent of the world total scheduled passengers.
Market share of LCCs was the highest in Europe representing 36 per cent of total passengers carried in the region, followed by Latin America/Caribbean, North America, and Asia/Pacific with 35 per cent, 30 per cent and 29 per cent, respectively.
ICAO also said average jet fuel prices increased by approximately 31 per cent in 2018 compared to 2017 but remained notably lower than the prices observed for the ten years prior to 2015.
ICAO added: “The low fuel cost coupled with solid increase in traffic helped the airlines to maintain relatively high record of profitable level in 2018 albeit slightly lower from 2017.
“The airline industry is expected to end 2018 with another record operating profit of around USD 57 billion and an operating margin of 7.0 percent. The net profits for the Industry is expected to be around USD 34 billion with nearly half of this being generated by air carriers of North America.
“Deceleration in global economic growth forecasted by the World Bank could see moderation in traffic growth and profitability momentum in 2019.
The final official figures will be released in the 2019 Annual Report of the Council.