The airline industry should be soaring over the next 20 years due to growing U.S. and world economic activity, according to a report by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Rising passenger demand and strategic changes implemented by air carriers contribute to the projected growth in the aviation.
The FAA states that number of passengers flying U.S. airlines will top 780 million in 2018 and grow to more than 1.1 billion by 2034. It also projects the number of miles passengers will fly will grow by an average of 2.2% per year for the next two decades. Landings and takeoffs from FAA-operated towers are projected to increase from 51.8 million in 2018 to nearly 62 million in 2039.
Array of Aviation Careers
The projected growth in passenger traffic is expected to drive demand for qualified aviation professionals. The vibrant and pioneering nature of the industry calls for “a highly-skilled workforce,” the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) noted in its 2018 report Aviation: Benefits Beyond Borders.
Aviation’s contribution to the economy includes supporting 75.5 million jobs worldwide, according to the ATAG. That includes a broad range of occupations, such as airline manager, pilot, freight and cargo supervisor, transportation security officer and airport manager, as well as other aviation management jobs.
A 2018 report by aircraft manufacturer Boeing projected demand for “79,000 pilots over the next 20 years,” including a record-high air travel demand and tightening labor supply.
Overcoming Industry Challenges
Commercial carriers have come a long way since Jan. 1, 1914, when pilot Tony Jannus flew the first paying passenger across Tampa Bay, Florida, in a bi-wing airboat. However, the new century has brought significant challenges to the industry.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Great Recession and rising fuel costs suppressed demand and forced airlines to rethink their business. They responded by slashing operating costs, grounding older planes and cutting less profitable routes. Carriers also began charging for services that were once included in the ticket price, such as baggage checks.
“Over the long term, we see a competitive and profitable aviation industry characterized by increasing demand of air travel and airfares growing more slowly than inflation,” the FAA report stated.
Passenger Demand Growing Worldwide
Similar growth is projected for airlines worldwide, according to the IATA. The industry group reports that strong demand in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Asia-Pacific region increased passenger numbers by 6.0% in 2019.
The IATA estimates the number of airline passengers worldwide will reach 8.2 billion annually by 2037, a number that ties in with the record-breaking 4.1 billion passengers that flew in 2017. That was 280 million more than in 2016 , according to the reports shared by the IATA.
Those figures are expected to increase the number of jobs associated with air transport from 65.5. million today to about 100 million.
North American carriers will account for almost half of the 2019 profits, according to IATA, with a $16.6 billion net profit (up from $14.7 billion in 2018). In 2019, IATA forecasts a return investment at $8.6 and passenger numbers to rise 4.59 billion.
On average, airlines worldwide will earn a profit of $6.1 per passenger this year.
“In 2000, the average citizen flew just once every 43 months. In 2017, the figure was once every 22 months,” IATA Chief Executive Officer Alexandre de Juniac said in a September 2018 statement. “Flying has never been more accessible. And this is liberating people to explore more of our plant for work, leisure, and education.”
U.S Airlines Busiest…For Now
IATA also found that the busiest airlines by total scheduled passenger kilometers flown in 2017 were primarily based in the United States.
- American Airlines: 324 billion
- Delta Air Lines: 316.3 billion
- United Airlines: 311 billion
- Emirates Airline: 289 billion
- Southwest Airlines: 207.7 billion
However, it’s impossible to ignore the rise of the East in looking at air travel. The fourth busiest airline was Emirates, showing the rise of Persian Gulf air carriers on the global stage. And, the airlines in the Asia-Pacific region carried the largest number of passengers, with a 36.3% market share.
The Future of the Aviation Industry
To compete with the Eastward shift and growing passenger demand in the United States, the FAA is responding to the increasing demand with its NextGen program. NextGen is an effort to improve airline safety in a number of ways, the most notable of which is taking advantage of GPS satellites that allow aircrafts to fly shorter, more efficient routes to their destinations. Explore the future of the aviation industry in our content series here.
Amidst a critical moment for aviation safety, the FAA’s new administrator, Stephen M. Dickson, will oversee a 2019 budget of $16.4 billion dollars and the industries growing demands. “Nowhere else in the world see the volume, complexity, and pace of innovation that we have in our aviation system here in America. That certainly presents challenges, but also tremendous opportunities,” Dickson said in his swearing-in ceremony in August.
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