The Asia-Pacific region has overtaken North America as the world's largest air travel market with 647 million passengers in 2009, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) said yesterday.
By contrast, 638 million people flew on commercial flights in North America last year, Iata announced at an aviation business conference on the eve of the week-long Singapore Airshow (begins today and runs until February 7) featuring the world's leading aviation industry players.
Within Asia, China has eclipsed Japan over the past decade as the region's largest domestic market, with 1,400 aircraft compared with Japan's 540 and 5.7 million weekly seats against 2.6 million in Japan.
Iata Director General and Chief Executive Giovanni Bisignani said the Asia-Pacific market would continue to grow rapidly with an estimated 217 million additional air passengers a year in the region by 2013.
"While we see dynamism and diversity within the region, the aspect of Asia-Pacific that excites me most is its potential," Bisignani said, adding more than a quarter of the 2.2 billion people who flew last year, or 647 million people, flew within Asia-Pacific markets. "It has eclipsed travel within North America as the traditional leader in traffic numbers," said Bisignani.
Asian airlines were projected to narrow their losses collectively to $700 million (Dh2,571m) this year from $3.4bn in 2009, about a third of the industry's global losses last year, he added.
"It is indeed tough in all regions but Asia-Pacific's prospects are improving faster than other regions," said Bisignani.
The Geneva-based aviation trade body said recently it will take at least three years for the aviation industry to recover from the travel slump caused by the worst recession in nearly six decades.
Airlines globally may make $5.6bn of losses this year, compared with an estimated $11bn of losses last year.
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