Air Travellers Seen Doubling by 2025

The number of air travellers is expected to double by 2025, rising to more than 9 billion a year, a body representing the world's airports said on Tuesday.

The Airports Council International (ACI) predicted air freight would triple over the same period.

In its Global Traffic Forecast 2006-2025, ACI said passengers passing through the 1,650 domestic and international airports its 567 members operate would grow an average 4% annually over the period.

There are currently around 4.2 billion air travellers a year. Environmentalists say aviation is a growing source of carbon dioxide which contributes to global warming.

Asian air travel is set to increase 9% annually, led by India (10.4%) and China (8.1%), ACI said.

By 2025, Asia will be challenging North America which has held the top spot as the busiest global air passenger region since the dawn of civil aviation.

Last year 1.5 billion people passed though North American airports against 897 million in Asia.

Asian freight volume in 2005 was 26 million tonnes, just 5 million behind North America, and Asia is expected to be the world's largest freight market by 2025, ACI said.

Aircraft movements around the world are likely to grow only an average 2.8% over the next two decades, ACI said, because a new generation of aircraft capable of carrying larger loads was coming on stream.

ACI Director General Robert Aaronson said it was vital airlines and air traffic bodies, industry regulators and governments helped ensure the development of airports and the construction of new ones to keep up with the growth.

If it did not, he said, "passenger comfort will suffer".

Around the world, new projects are being held up by regulation "which distorts market forces or creates expensive, time-consuming bureaucratic hurdles to airport development", Aaronson said.