Global air traffic - number of flights 2004-2020

The number of flights performed globally by the airline industry increased steadily since the early 2000’s and is expected to reach 40.3 million in 2020. This figure is over one million higher than the prediction for the previous year and represents an increase of over 50 percent from a decade prior.

The global airline industry

The airline industry includes companies that provide domestic and international air transport services for both passengers and freight. This means the overall number of flights worldwide is higher than the above number suggests. Some freight companies own and operate a private aircraft fleet, such as FedEx who maintain over 650 aircraft. The above figure also excludes military flights, and flights associated with the space industry (for example satellite launches).

Drivers of growth

The industry’s recent growth can be attributed to a combination of increasing living standards and decreasing costs of air travel. While North American and European airlines currently dominate in terms of both revenue and passengers flown, it is predicted that future growth will be highest in the emerging markets of Africa, Latin America and Asia. This is due not only to economic development, but also the expected increase in the working-age population of many countries in these regions.

Number of flights performed by the global airline industry from 2004 to 2020

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Release date

December 2019



Survey time period

2004 to 2019

Supplementary notes

* 2019 figure is an estimate.
** 2020 figure is a forecast.
Figures prior to 2014 taken from previous reports.

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