In 2009 intra-Asia-Pacific travel eclipsed the number of travelers in North America as the world’s largest aviation market, according to The International Air Transport Association (IATA). Asia-Pacific’s travelers numbered 647 million compared to the 638 million who travelled within North America (including domestic markets). By 2013 an additional 217 million travelers are expected to take to the skies within Asia–Pacific.
“Achieving Asia-Pacific’s tremendous potential is contingent upon short-term efforts to battle the impacts of the economic downturn with cost reductions and efficiency gains,” says Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general and CEO. “Longer-term Asia-Pacific must also face global challenges, including environment, security and liberalization.”
The global aviation industry is expected to reduce losses from US$11.0 billion in 2009 to US$5.6 billion in 2010. The loss reduction is being led by Asia-Pacific’s carriers who are expected to see their losses shrink from US$3.4 billion in 2009 to US$700 million in 2010. “Asia-Pacific’s prospects are improving faster than other regions,” says Bisignani.
He notes that the Asia-Pacific region is diverse, dynamic and with great potential:
Diverse: Asia-Pacific is home to two of the world’s top five airlines in terms of profitability. At the same time, the region’s governments provided over US$10 billion in government bailouts to airlines in the first quarter of the year. The region’s two biggest growth markets—India and China—face completely different circumstances. India’s challenge is to reduce costs and improve infrastructure, while China is adjusting to new global trade patterns.
Dynamic: Over the last decade China replaced Japan as Asia-Pacific’s largest player. Today China’s fleet is 1,400 aircraft compared to Japan’s 540. Its domestic market of 5.7 million weekly seats is more than double Japan’s 2.6 million and China’s 1.4 million weekly international seat market is now slightly larger than Japan’s 1.3 million.
Potential: In the US, there are three aircraft seats per year for each of the 300 million people who live there. China’s population of 1.3 billion is served by only 0.3 seats per person and India’s 1.1 billion population has only 0.1 seats available per person. “The global air transport industry will triple in size when Asians travel as much as those in the US,” says Bisignani.