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Air travel to climb by nearly a billion passengers by 2017: agency

A Westjet aircraft takes off as an Air Canada jet is towed on the tarmac at the Halifax airport on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011.

Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Passenger demand in the commercial airline market is expected to rise 31 per cent by 2017, according to the latest figures from the International Air Transport Association.

The Geneva-based agency's airline industry forecast for the 2013-to-2017 period calls for an increase in passenger numbers to 3.91 billion in 2017 from 2.98 billion in 2012, almost one billion more passengers.

IATA said in a news release Tuesday that demand is expected to expand by an average of 5.4 per cent compound annual growth rate in the forecast period. That compares to 4.3 per cent between 2008 and 2012, reflecting the negative impact of the 2008 global financial meltdown and recession.

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Of the new passengers in the 2013-to-2017 period, about 292 million will be on international routes and 638 million on domestic runs, said the agency.

The single biggest driver of growth will be the Chinese market, with about 30 per cent of the new passengers in the forecast period.

The United States is predicted to maintain its status as the largest single market for domestic passengers in 2017 with 677.8 million, but it will add only 70 million passengers in the forecast period.

The strongest international passenger growth in 2013-to-2017 will come from the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions, with compound annual growth rates of 6.3 per cent and 5.7 per cent, respectively.

Africa and Latin America come next, with 5.3 per cent and 4.5 per cent, respectively, according to IATA numbers.

The fastest growing market for international passenger traffic will be Uzbekistan, at 10.3-per-cent growth, displacing Kazakhstan at 9 per cent.

And Brazil will be in a strong third place for domestic passenger growth, after the U.S. and China, with 122.4 million passengers by 2017, up by 32 million passengers – or 6.3 per cent -- from 90 million in 2012.

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"The fact that the Asia-Pacific region – led by China – and the Middle East will deliver the strongest growth over the forecast period is not surprising. Governments in both areas recognize the value of the connectivity provided by aviation to drive global trade and development," said Tony Tyler, IATA director general and chief executive officer.

"Similar opportunities exist for developing regions in Africa and Latin America. To reap the benefit, governments in those regions will need to change their view of aviation from a luxury cash cow to a utilitarian powerful draft horse to pull the economy forward."

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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More

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