GENEVA - Worldwide air passengers exceeded 4 billion for the first time in 2017 amid a global economic recovery and lower airfares, with airlines in the Asia-Pacific region leading the growth, according to the International Air Transport Association.
The IATA said Thursday that 4.1 billion passengers flew last year, up 7.3 percent from 2016, marking an additional 280 million trips. Increases in direct flight services between cities have cut costs and travel times for both travelers and shippers, making flights more attractive, it added.
Airlines in the Asia-Pacific region carried the largest number of passengers, 1.5 billion, to claim a market share of 36.3 percent, up 10.6 percent from 2016. They were followed by their European and North American counterparts, who carried 1.1 billion and 941.8 million, respectively.
The top five international or regional passenger airport pairs were within the Asia-Pacific. Hong Kong-Taipei flights lead the pack with 5.4 million passengers, followed by Jakarta-Singapore flights with 3.3 million and Bangkok-Hong Kong with 3.1 million.
The top five domestic airport pairs were all in the Asia-Pacific as well. The Jeju-Seoul pair ranked first with 13.5 million, up about 15 percent from 2016, and Melbourne-Sydney ranked second with 7.8 million.
Japanese airport pairs ranked third and fourth, with 7.6 million passengers flying between Fukuoka and Tokyo and 7.4 million taking the Sapporo-Tokyo route.
Beijing-Shanghai rounded out the top five with 6.4 million.
The IATA, based in Montreal, represents some 290 airlines comprising 82 percent of global air traffic. It also has executive offices in Geneva.