The World of Air Transport in 2013




In 2013, world total scheduled passenger-kilometres performed increased by about 5.5 per cent over 2012 — international and domestic services combined — according to preliminary traffic statistics compiled by ICAO. The number of passengers carried rose to 3.1 billion, which is 4.5 per cent higher than last year, while the number of departures reached 32 million globally in 2013, a 1.2 per cent increase compared to 2012. Detailed air transport statistics are available at Appendix 1.


Overall traffic growth in 2013 has been supported by positive economic prospects worldwide, based on a 2.5 per cent increase in the world real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) according to IHS Global Insight estimates, which is 0.1 percentage points less than last year’s economic growth.


In terms of total scheduled passenger-kilometres performed — international and domestic services combined — Asia/Pacific remains the largest Region with 31 per cent of the world traffic, posting 7.7 per cent growth in 2013. Europe ranks second with 27 per cent of the world traffic and grew at 4.6 per cent over 2012. North America accounts for 26 per cent and grew at 2 per cent year-on-year. The Middle East Region recorded once again the highest growth rate with 11.2 per cent and represents 9 per cent of the world traffic. The Latin America/Caribbean Region accounts for 5 per cent of the world traffic and grew at 6.7 per cent. The rest of the world traffic (2 per cent) is performed by airlines of the African Region, growing at 4.4 per cent in 2013.


Specifically, in terms of passenger-kilometres performed, international scheduled traffic grew by 5.7 per cent in 2013. The largest increase was registered by airlines of the Middle East, with 11.1 per cent growth, followed by those of the Latin America/Caribbean Region (8.2 per cent), the Asia/Pacific Region (6.3 per cent) and Africa (4.7 per cent). International traffic of Europe and North America grew by 4.5 and 2.8 per cent, respectively. These relatively low growth figures of Europe and North America compared to the world average relate, however, to more than 50 per cent of the world international traffic and therefore still represent a significant increase in absolute terms.


In terms of domestic scheduled air services, all Regions experienced an increase in traffic and markets overall grew by 5.1 per cent in 2013. North America is still the world’s largest domestic market with 45 per cent of the world domestic scheduled traffic. The Asia/Pacific Region benefited from an increase of 11.8 per cent in the domestic Chinese market.


Capacity offered by the world’s airlines, expressed as available seat-kilometres, increased globally by 4.8 per cent. While capacity growth ranged from 1.7 per cent in North America to 11.7 per cent in the Middle East, the average global load factor increased by 0.5 percentage points compared to 2012, ranking from 69 per cent for Africa to 83 per cent for North America. The average global load factor reached 79.4 per cent in 2013.



The total number of departures on scheduled services grew slightly at 1.2 per cent compared to 2012. This small increase of the number of flights compared to traffic growth, coupled with the improvement in the passenger load factors reflects a more efficient management of airline operations.


Air freight, expressed in terms of freight tonne-kilometres performed, posted an increase of 0.4 per cent with approximately 49.3 million tonnes of freight carried in 2013. The carriers of the Middle East recorded overall double digit growth rates. Africa grew at 4 per cent while Latin America/Caribbean increased by 2.7 per cent. Asia/Pacific and Europe remained almost stable with 0.2 per cent and -0.1 per cent growth, respectively. North America experienced a -4.9 per cent decrease compared to 2012.



Based on available figures, ICAO is estimating an operating profit of about 3.5 per cent of operating revenues, for scheduled airlines of ICAO Member States.


Global air traffic has doubled in size every 15 years since 1977 and, between now and 2030, it is poised to double again. The 3.1 billion airline passengers carried in 2013 are expected to grow to about six billion by 2030, and the number of departures is forecast to grow from 32 million in 2013 to some 60 million in 2030. The latest forecasts are contained in the Global Air Transport Outlook to 2030 and trends to 2040 (Cir 333).


Oil prices remain high for the third year in a row and are a potential impediment to air transport growth. Aviation stakeholders should continue to improve fuel efficiency by deploying more fuel efficient aeroplanes and engines, raising load factors on flights or improving operational efficiencies.


With regard to new aircraft, the world’s major manufacturers delivered about 1 500 new commercial aircraft in 2013 and have recorded orders for more than 3 000 new aircraft. The new, more fuel-efficient aircraft will help reduce the carbon footprint of the aviation sector and support efforts to address climate change.



As for aviation safety, there were 90 aircraft accidents (9 fatal) on scheduled air services in 2013, a decrease of 10 per cent from 2012, when 99 accidents were reported. This is according to an analysis of global safety data involving commercial air transport aircraft with a maximum certificated take-off mass of more than 5 700 kilograms. The number of fatalities in scheduled operations worldwide dropped to 173 fatalities, from 388 in 2012, a decrease of 53 per cent. The global accident rate decreased by 13 per cent to 2.8 accidents per million schedule departures versus 3.2 accidents per million scheduled departures in 2012.


Non-scheduled commercial passenger operations experienced 27 accidents (8 fatal), compared with 42 accidents in the previous year (based on preliminary data). The number of passenger fatalities associated with non-scheduled commercial operations decreased to 47 from 74 in 2012. Accident rates for non-scheduled operations could not be estimated because of the lack of comprehensive traffic figures related to such services.


With regard to acts of unlawful interference, 7 incidents were recorded in 2013. Among these were 3 facility attacks, 1 sabotage, 1 seizure of a helicopter and 2 other acts, including an armed assault on an air cargo terminal. Details concerning all 2013 events are available in the Acts of Unlawful Interference Database which is accessible at ICAO’s secure website.


More comprehensive safety data are available at

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