ACI World: China set to overtake US in air travel demand forecast

By Kristiane Sherry |

Passengers shopping at Heathrow Airport

Global passenger numbers will rebound to pre-pandemic levels this year. Photo: Heathrow airport, Shutterstock.

China is set to overtake the US when it comes to air travel demand, the annual ACI World Airport Traffic Forecasts (WATF) 2023­–2052 dataset shows.

According to the findings, global passenger traffic will overtake 2019 volumes this year, hitting 9.7 billion. International traffic will stand at 4bn.

The 2024 edition of the report sees its horizon extended by 10 years. Traffic is forecasted at global, regional and country levels.

Data has been sourced from 141 countries, 29 of them new. The forecasts include air cargo volumes and airport movements as well as passenger numbers.

While the US was the top country for passenger traffic in 2023, China looks set to dominate from 2024 and beyond.

Other notable movements include Indonesia, which is forecast to leap nine places in the rankings from 13th in 2023 to fourth in both 2024 and 2052.

By 2052, Thailand and Vietnam will also enter the top 10 countries when ranked by passenger volumes.

This is in line with the shift from advanced markets to emerging and developing economies, which will see a faster growth rate. 

Other insights include a slowing of the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for passenger traffic. From 2019 to 2042 ACI World is forecasting a 4.3% growth rate, which will fall back to 3.6% from 2042 to 2052.

In total, global passengers will double from 2024 to 2042, and be 2.5 times higher by 2052.

ACI World top 20 markets by total passenger forecast

ACI World top 20 markets by total passenger forecast

“In the long-term, the global passenger market dynamic is expected to transition from advanced economies towards emerging and developing ones as they experience significant urbanisation and population increases, often combined with rapid economic growth favourably impacting their disposable income and willingness to travel,” said ACI World Director General, Luis Felipe de Oliveira.

“Investing responsibly in current and new infrastructure remains key to ensuring that we can sustainably meet capacity growth to maximise the social and economic benefits of aviation.”

Earlier this year, ACI World named Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) CEO Candace McGraw as its new Chair – the first woman in its history to hold the role.

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