Preliminary figures released on Monday by the International Civil Aviation Organisation showed a total of 4.3 billion passengers were transported by air on scheduled services in 2018.
The document, issued by ICAO’s Chief of Communications, Anthony Philbin, said this indicated a 6.1 per cent increase over 2017 when 4 billion passengers were flown by the airlines.
Philbin said the number of departures rose to approximately 38 million globally, and world passenger traffic grew solidly at 6.7 per cent.
He said the growth was, however, a slowdown from the 7.9 per cent achieved in 2017.
He said: “Over half of the world’s 1.4 billion tourists who travelled across international borders last year were transported by air, and that air transport now carries some 35 per cent of world trade by value.
“Indeed, around 90 per cent of cross border Business-to-Consumer (B2C) e-commerce was carried by air transport.
“The final official figures will be released in the 2019 Annual Report of the Council.”
Philbin noted that air travel growth had eased in comparison to the strong upward trend seen in 2017.
Philbin said the stimulus of lower air fares to travel demand had reduced due to the higher fuel prices from the last two years, reflecting the moderation in growth momentum.
He said: “However, air traffic growth remained solid in 2018, underpinned by the global economic conditions throughout the year.
“Despite recent softening, world real gross domestic product (GDP) growth is projected to be at 3.1 per cent in 2018 before slowing gradually over the next two years.
“Advanced economy growth decelerates, and the recovery in major commodity-exporting emerging market and developing economies levels off.
“The financial market stress, escalating trade protectionism and heightened geopolitical tensions continue to cloud the outlook.”
Philbin said international scheduled passenger traffic grew by 6.4 per cent in 2018, down from the strong 8.4 per cent recorded in 2017.
He said all regions posted slower growth than 2017, with the exception of an improvement in North America driven by the stronger US economy and continued international expansion of Canadian carriers.