The U.S. is the Biggest Air Market in the World – And No One is Catching Up Soon

The biggest aviation market in the world – by far – is the U.S., based on the number of departing seats. So this isn’t just domestic flights, it’s domestic flights plus outbound international flights as well.

Airline Weekly (subscription) compiles data on the biggest aviation markets in the world. Here are the top 10.

The EU as a whole is roughly comparable to the Chinese market. The UK as a whole is the biggest aviation market in Europe, though their former colony India is a bigger market still.

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 Germany which is far more mature. The biggest growth though has been in Vietnam which doesn’t crack the top 10 — or even top 20.. yet.

By the way the only U.S. airline among the top 10 fastest growing in the world is Spirit, which grew capacity 18% in 2017. Alaska Airlines clocked in at 8% (23rd) and jetBlue 6% (26th). The biggest growth is in Asia with Hainan Airlines, IndiGo, EVA, AirAsia, and Lion Air all checking into the top 10 for 2017 growth.

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, 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. China is projected by IATA to pass the USA in 2022. Is that not “soon” by your metrics?

    It is bizarre that you claim something about the rate of change in the headline but don’t bother to write anything about it in the body of the story.

  2. @Wandering Aramean – unquestionably China’s aviation growth is faster than the US. However I’d be open to a friendly wager on 2022. To be sure if the US grows straight line 4% and China 12% they’ll basically be flat with each other in 2022. “IATA says it” isn’t really an argument though. So care to bet?

  3. What do US, India, Indonesia and Brazil have in common? No viable alternatives to flying. UK is not far either because of the quite high ticket prices for trains.
    For journeys under 4 and even 5h, depending how far from city center is the airport, trains are a better alternative to flying (especially for domestic clients).

  4. Your chart says China is already almost 3/4 of the US. It’s growing a hell of a lot faster and the US could stall big any day.

    So the headline should be China Will Soon ByPass the US in Air Travel.

  5. High speed rail in China is one of the reasons why domestic flight wont’ be increasing as much. Anything under 500 miles can be done in MUCH QUICKER time than currently in the states. Count just international traffic and you might find a more interesting story.

  6. @Gary, it’s only reasonable that you should identify the US as a former British colony in every story where US outranks Britain in some aspect.

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