The most dominant region in the world for air transportation is Asia. Asian airlines have more new airplanes that are currently on order than anyone else. The airports within the industry are growing faster, the air shows are larger, and more passengers are transported within the region than anywhere else as well.
In 2016, 35% of air travel opportunities, as measured by passenger numbers, were based in the Asia-Pacific region. Europe came in at a distant second, with 26%, while North America placed third, at 24%.
What makes the Asian market such a dynamic geographic location for airlines is the sheer number of passenger opportunities. The United States is the global leader in total passengers, servicing 700 million people per year. That’s 200 million more people than China. By 2036, however, the total number of passengers served per year is expected to reach 1.46 billion in China, compared to a forecast in the U.S. of 1.1 billion.
Important Asian Airline Industry Statistics
#1. AirAsia has over 400 Airbus aircraft that are on order, but they have not yet been delivered. Indigo has another 400 Airbus awaiting delivery. Lion Air has around 200 Boeing aircraft and another 200 Airbus aircraft awaiting delivery. In total, 8 different airlines in the region have ordered at least 100 passenger aircraft and are awaiting delivery. (BBC)
#2. Despite leading in total passengers, American carriers dominate in passenger count by organization. China Southern Airlines is the fourth-largest passenger provider, with about 110 million passengers served. In comparison, Southwest, American, and Delta all served 140 million passengers each. (BBC)
#3. The world’s busiest air route is a domestic flight between Jeju and Seoul, which carries 11.7 million passengers per year. That’s around 200 flights per day. (BBC)
#4. Over 50% of the new airport investments which occur in the world today are located within the Asia-Pacific region. That’s more than 170 different airport development projects in total. (Frost and Sullivan)
#5. The number of Asian airlines that are operational now totals 230, as of 2016 figures. That would make Asian airlines responsible for about 27% of the world’s commercial fleet of aircraft. (Deutsche Welle)
#6. 40% of the scheduled domestic flights which occur globally are centered on the Asia-Pacific region. Asian airlines are also responsible for 28% of all international flights which are scheduled during the year. (Deutsche Welle)
#7. China is planning to build 66 new airports by 2021, with India expecting to open around 50 new airports by the end of 2026 to support the growing number of passengers served by the Asian airline industry. (Deutsche Welle)
#8. Of the 5 fastest growing markets for additional passengers per year, 4 of them are expected to be in Aisa. Through 2035, more than 817 million new passengers are expected to come from China. India should see 322 million new passengers. Indonesia and Vietnam are expecting 100 million new passengers. (IATA)
#9. In 2017, 33.7% of global passenger traffic went through the Asia-Pacific region, generating revenue passenger kilometers (RPK) of 9.1%. Europe was the only other region to have an RPK above 6%. North America saw an RPK of 4%, which was 0.6% higher than Africa. (IATA)
#10. The Asian airline industry posted an annual demand growth of 9.4% in 2017, which was driven by high levels of regional expansion. It was the first time since 1994 that the industry led all regions with its annual growth rate. (IATA)
#11. Total passenger capacity for the Asian airline industry rose 7.9%, while the load factor rose 1.1% to reach 79.6% for the year. (IATA)
#12. From 2010 to 2017, the passenger numbers on China’s three largest carriers grew by 70%, reaching a total of 339 million people served. (The Economist)
#13. Revenues earned by the airline industry in China total $81 billion annually. Since 2013, the Asian airlines serving China have grown at a rate of 2.5% each year. (IBIS World)
#14. There are more than 430,000 people who are directly employed by the airline industry in China. Including airliners and service industries, more than 2,500 businesses are believed to be active within the industry. (IBIS World)
#15. In 2016, there were 133 million Chinese tourists who traveled to foreign countries, which is a rate that is 4 times higher than the number of passengers served in 2007. (CKGSB)
#16. In 2017, there were 50 new intercontinental routes that were opened by Chinese carriers for the Asian airline industry. In 2006, there were just 6 new intercontinental routes that were opened. (CKGSB)
#17. Although Chinese international passengers represent just 7% of the total traffic that are supported by airlines in the region, the growth of international travel, year over year, was 33% in 2015 and 28% in 2016. (CKGSB)
#18. During the 2017 Spring Festival, more than 6 million international travelers flew on Asian airlines for a vacation in a foreign country. (CKGSB)
Asian Airline Industry Trends and Analysis
Between 2015-2034, a forecast of 38,000 aircraft deliveries are expected around the world. Over 14,000 of these deliveries are expected to be for the Asian airline industry. North America is a distant second in this forecast, with 7,890 deliveries. Europe comes in third, with an expected 7,310 deliveries.
At the same time, 37% of the aircraft operating fleet will be based in Asia.
There are some political factors which may affect the Asian airline industry in coming years. South Korea, for example, saw a 50% decrease in air passenger traffic from China because of their push for a U.S. missile defense shield. An increasing middle class in India, paired with social reforms throughout Southeast Asia, are contributing to higher levels of disposable income.
That increases the potential for more passengers, offsetting the expected losses due to political maneuvering.
With domestic air passenger growth achieving 10% or higher year-over-year levels, the strength of the Asian airline industry is unquestionable. It’s not a question of if, but when, the region will become the primary service provider in the world.