Accurate forecasting of future air service demand is crucial for airports for planning their capacity requirements. As the infrastructure projects are costly and often disruptive, a data-driven understanding of future demand—such as the expected number of aircraft movements, passenger traffic throughput, and air cargo volumes— is required for effective decision making.
Toward this end, the Airports Council International (ACI) World has been at the forefront of publishing data. It has come out with latest edition of the World Airport Traffic Forecasts (WATF) which covers over 100 countries, including economic grouping like BRICS, G7 and MINT, and presents detailed metrics for passenger, cargo and aircraft movements up to 2040.
The study forecasts passenger traffic doubling by 2034, growing from 8.3 billion total passengers today to 17 billion in 2034 and almost 21 billion by 2040 - a projected growth rate of 4.3 per cent annually. The prospects for growth in the passenger market over the short, medium and long term, remain robust. China is predicted to become the largest passenger market with just under four billion passengers which will represent a 19 per cent share of the global passenger traffic market.
In 2040, an estimated 20 per cent of all air cargo will be handled in the US. China and the UAE, predicted to be the second and third largest markets, will together handle another fifth of the 203.4 million tonnes of global air cargo volumes. The surging air transport demand threatens to outstrip the current and planned airport infrastructure in many regions around the world.
These physical capacity considerations and potential bottlenecks in air transport infrastructure pose challenges to the global industry in accommodating the strong forecast future demand. Geopolitical tensions and protectionist policies that retreat from further economic integration and air transport liberalization could also have an adverse effect. The industry must come together to respond to these challenges and help to ensure communities continue to reap the social and economic benefits of air service growth. Policy at a national and global level should be focused on facilitating sustainable growth over the long term.