We’re #1! The World’s Largest Aviation Markets

Airline Weekly presented data from Diio Mi this week on the largest aviation markets in the world based on 2018 seat miles scheduled.

The U.S. is the world’s aviation largest market — by a lot. The EU as a whole is larger than Chinese market. The UK is the biggest aviation market in Europe, so perhaps Brexit will be what causes China to grow larger than Europe.

Japan is a bigger market than India, though a decade from now will that still be the case? India has nearly doubled in the past seven years. (So has China.)

Indonesia has more than doubled in the last seven years which is why it’s now a larger market than Italy which is far more mature.

International airline trade group IATA projected that China’s aviation market would outstrip the U.S.’s by 2022. I’ve been skeptical of that. China has been the next big thing for years and continues to be next. Chinese growth appears to be slowing.

That isn’t to say China isn’t important. Though there’s interest in the route authorities American Airlines is dropping by ending Chicago – Shanghai and Chicago – Beijing service on the whole US airlines have been losing interest in China — and that’s going to make it tough for Chinese carriers to overcome policy barriers and allow more flights.

Rank Country Seat Miles
1 U.S. 1,351,836,177,391
2 China 710,515,404,477
3 U.K. 260,186,416,183
4 Japan 206,864,525,475
5 U.A.E. 194,905,460,634
6 Germany 184,712,087,820
7 India 181,386,280,692
8 Australia 167,510,399,345
9 Spain 165,852,833,762
10 Canada 149,090,212,388
11 France 145,650,936,861
12 Russia 137,845,754,996
13 Brazil 126,348,379,554
14 Indonesia 119,750,873,392
15 Thailand 117,810,095,279
16 Turkey 104,101,633,062
17 Italy 100,066,346,607
18 South Korea 99,655,368,300
19 Hong Kong 95,328,177,782
20 Mexico 93,869,883,555

Methodology matters a good bit here, since it’s not just number of flights or seats but factors distance. That boosts the ranking of the U.A.E. substantially.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “so perhaps Brexit will be what causes China to grow larger than Europe.”
    ??? UK will leave Europe? IMPOSSIBLE! They just will leave the E.U.
    Europe is a continent and even they are an island, they are part of the european continent.

  2. 3 things wrong with market sizes being ranked by “seat miles” :

    1. that only tells us how much is being flown, but it doesn’t tell us how much the propensity of flight. by “Seat miles” metric, 10 people flying 10,000 miles (eg SYD-LHR) is the same as 200 people flying 500 miles (eg ORD-YYZ).

    2. as you’ve noted in your footnote as well, if certain places have a disproportionate amount of traffic that’s merely passing through their super connecting hub, e.g. UAE examples of DXB and AUH, then it’s hard to gauge how big is their “true” market that involves actual UAE O&D.

    3. metrics like these actually penalize nations that have made major strides with train transport options while simultaneously reward nations that have such poor land infrastructure that people fly even on the shortest of distances. A prime example would be CGH-SDU.

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