Aviation market predicted to grow by 2014

08:46, February 22, 2011      

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China will emerge as the world's fastest-growing market for air travel by 2014, posing a major challenge for the country's air traffic management, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Of the 800 million new travelers expected to fly by 2014, 360 million will travel on Asia-Pacific routes, and of those, 214 million will be associated with China, of which 181 million will be domestic travelers, IATA said on Monday.

The number of international air passengers from China will grow at 10.8 percent annually while domestic traffic will grow 13.9 percent through this year to 2014.

With 671 million domestic passengers and 215 million international travelers, the United States will remain the largest single market by 2014.

By the same year, the Chinese mainland is expected to be the second fastest-growing international freight market after Hong Kong. The Chinese mainland and Hong Kong will account for a third of global volume growth over the period to 2014, the association said.

The explosive traffic growth in China is expected to create huge challenges for the nation's air traffic management.

"With the expected traffic growth by 2014, the situation will get worse," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's director-general and chief executive officer during his visit to Beijing on Monday, citing unacceptable levels of air traffic delays and a finite airspace controlled by the military. "The key will be in releasing more military airspace for civilian use," he said.

China has been investing heavily in air transport infrastructure. By 2020, the country will have 244 civilian airports, with construction of 78 new airports between 2010 and 2020, according to a report in the Guangzhou Daily.

IATA said the country has been a pioneer in simplifying the passenger and freight process including e-ticket and e-freight services.

"The focus of the industry continues to shift eastward," said Bisignani. "Asia is the most profitable region and it's a favorite region for investors. By 2014, one billion people will travel by air in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Despite some regional differences, the forecast indicates that the world will continue to become more mobile. This creates enormous opportunities but also presents some challenges," said Bisignani.

"To realize the economic growth potential that will bring, we will need even more efficient air-traffic management, airport facilities and security programs."

The industry, that is expected to handle 16 billion passengers and 400 million tons of freight by 2050, has a "pathetic" profit margin of only 0.1 percent over the past 40 years. Though having just recovered from the shadow of the global economic recession, "to be a sustainable business, we would need 7 to 8 percent to meet the cost of capital", he said.

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