IATA (International Air Transport Association) forecasts Pakistan domestic air travel will grow at least 9.5% per year, more than 2X faster than the world average annual growth rate of 4.1% over the next 20 years. The Indian and Brazilian domestic markets will grow at 6.9% and 5.4% respectively.
In a clear sign of Pakistan's rising middle class choosing air travel, the number of domestic and international air travelers in Pakistan grew by 8% to 17.9 million in fiscal year 2013-14 compared to previous year, recording the fastest growth in passenger traffic in the last three years, according to data provided by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and published by Pakistan's Express Tribune newspaper. Growth in air travel is pushing new airport upgrades and new construction to handle more passengers. Examples of new or upgraded airports include Islamabad, Multan and Sialkot.
Chinese domestic air travel market will surpass the US market to claim the number 1 spot by 2030, according to figures released by by IATA. Currently the ninth largest market, India will see a total of 367 million passengers by 2034, an extra 266 million annual passengers compared to today. It will overtake the United Kingdom (148 million extra passengers, total market 337 million) to become the 3rd largest market around 2031.
Pakistan International Airlines, the nation's state-owned carrier, is continuing to lose both market share and money in the midst of explosive growth in air travel. Pakistan's private carriers Shaheen, Air Blue and Indus Air and foreign carriers like Emirates and Saudia have benefited at the expense of PIA.
"It is an exciting prospect to think that in the next 20 years more than twice as many passengers as today will have the chance to fly. Air connectivity on this scale will help transform economic opportunities for millions of people," IATA chief Tony Tyler said in his comments on the report. In 20 years' time, "we can expect aviation to be supporting around 105 million jobs and USD six trillion in GDP," he said.
Sensing the opportunity, the government of Pakistan has recently announced a new national aviation policy, NAP 2015, to attract new investments in the aviation sector. It reduces or eliminates a number taxes and duties on investments. Announcing the policy, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said: “The present taxes and duties on the aviation sector are unjustified, and a major hurdle in the growth of travel and cargo handling through air.”
The NAP 2015 offers a bilateral “Open Skies Policy” to other countries, based on reciprocity; a level playing field for domestic and national airlines, and the liberalized aviation sector by allowing markets to determine the price, quality, frequency and range of air services options; and taxes structured and simplified in line with the best international practices to promote transportation, spur GDP growth and create jobs.
It's good to see that the aviation sector in Pakistan is finally beginning to get the attention it deserves as a growth market to increase investment, improve service to travelers and create new jobs.