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China to overtake US as world’s largest aviation market in 5 years

The hub for world air travel will shift to Asia from the United States and Europe, according to a forecast by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

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China will become the largest aviation market in 2022, displacing the United States two years earlier than expected. IATA defines the aviation market as traffic to, from and within a country.

In a recent forecast, Boeing predicted China would need 7,200 new planes worth $1 trillion. While Boeing and Airbus have opened plants in the country, Beijing wants to cut the dependence on foreign aircraft and partially substitute them with the homegrown Comac C919.

Over the next 20 years, about a half of all air passengers will come from the Asia-Pacific region, IATA predicts. The overall number of passengers is expected to nearly double from four billion in 2017 to 7.8 billion in 2036.

“The world needs to prepare for a doubling of passengers in the next 20 years. It’s fantastic news for innovation and prosperity, which is driven by air links. It is also a huge challenge for governments and industry to ensure we can successfully meet this essential demand,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO in a statement.

To meet the demand, Asian governments, airports, and carriers should significantly boost investment in the sector or face a crisis.

“We are headed for a major infrastructure crisis,” said de Juniac.

While many airports will be expanded, others such as Bangkok, Manila, and Jakarta are waiting for major updates, de Juniac noted.

Europe will continue to lose global influence in air traffic, as Thailand and Turkey will enter the top 10 by 2036. France and Italy will drop from the top 10 aviation markets.

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