Global Industry Overview: Air Transportation

Air transportation providers include commercial airlines that offer scheduled and non-scheduled domestic and international flights, air freight transportation (air courier), and the operation of airports and terminals.

Industry Snapshot

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the worldwide air transportation industry served 1.6 billion passengers annually in 2004, a number that was projected to increase to 2.3 billion by the end of the decade. Employment levels were projected to increase from 28 million workers to 31 million workers during the same time. The freight segment of the industry transported two-fifths of the world's goods by value in the mid-2000s.

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, the industry suffered severe declines in traffic and revenue. Many companies restructured, merged, or went bankrupt. In addition, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in Asia and the war in Iraq slowed passenger travel. Despite soaring fuel costs, in 2004 the industry had returned to pre-2001 passenger and cargo levels, with an industry profit of US$3.2 billion reported early in the year. By mid-year, passenger traffic had increased 20 percent and cargo traffic had increased 13 percent. China and India were expected to have the highest rates of passenger growth between 2004 and 2008.