Countries with the highest number of airline passengers globally 2018

The United States had the largest commercial air travel market in 2018, with almost 889 million passengers boarding planes registered to U.S. air carriers. The next largest market was China, with just over 611 million passengers, while Ireland was in third place, with just over 150 million passengers.

Passenger measurement

Measuring the number of passengers boarded by carriers registered in a country provides an indication of the size of that country’s airline industry, but it does not measure the amount of air travel in that country. For example, as Ryanair is registered in Ireland, all Ryanair flights count as Irish, even if the flight was between, say, Berlin and London. One way to measure the number of air passengers within a country is to look at the number of passengers passing though airports in that country. Alternatively, the level of travel within an airline market can be considered at the regional level, in which case North America slips back to third behind the Asia Pacific region and Europe.

Growth in global air travel

Regardless of how passenger numbers are measured, global air travel has been increasing rapidly over the last decade. In 2020, the total number of air passengers is expected to pass 4.7 billion – over two billion more than a decade ago. The total number of flights globally increased by a similar margin and is predicted to reach 40.3 million in 2020. Looking at this period as a whole, growth has been strongest in the Middle East and the Asia Pacific region, with the more developed North American market seeing lower growth rates.

Number of passengers on airlines worldwide in 2018, by registration country

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Supplementary notes

Air passengers carried include both domestic and international aircraft passengers of air carriers registered in the country.
The source doesn't mention a release date. The access date was taken as the release date.

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