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Number of Flights Worldwide in 2020: Passenger Traffic, Behaviors, and Revenue

Category: B2B News
What is the number of airline flights worldwide?
Global airline flights completed in 2019 reached 39 million—including both local and international destinations. In terms of passenger numbers, these flights have ferried 4.5 billion passengers. Market projections place the figure at 40 million airline flights for 2020.

Source: IATA; ICAO

The number of domestic and global airline flights worldwide total 39 million in 2019. The figures are consistent and have been increasing with an average 3.2% annual growth rate. Growth is pushed by a growing middle-class and the proliferation of budget airlines.

Forecasts for 2020 place the number at 40.3 million airline flights. A possible snag to hitting this growth projection is the global COVID-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions to and from countries with confirmed COVID-19 cases have reduced air travel; affecting not just the airline industry but the tourism and hospitality industries as well.

This article looks into the airline industry’s number of flights and passengers, flight statistics, traveler demographics, and industry growth projections by looking into the following topics:

How many airline flights occurred in the world per day in 2019?

Based on Statista’s numbers, we can estimate the number at 106,849 flights per day in 2019. Other sources estimate the number at 102,465 flights per day[1]. These only count commercial flights and do not include private chartered flights, freight, and military flights.

How many airline flights per year?

The year 2019 had over 39 million global flights. The Federal Aviation Administration affirms its Air Traffic Organization (ATO) has handled 44,000 local flights a day[2] or over 16,100,000 a year.

How many people fly each year worldwide?

The number of passengers who flew in and out of US airports was 2,789,9713[2] based on data from the FAA. Worldwide passenger numbers from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) place the number of people who flew annually at 4.5 billion.

What percentage of the world flies?

Dennis A. Muilenburg, former Boeing CEO, has claimed[3] that only about 20% of the world’s population has traveled by air. This is roughly 1.5 billion people. For Americans, the results show 40% have never left the country while 13% have never flown on a plane.

Percentage of People Who Have Never Flown

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Source: OnePoll

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Airlines with the most flights

With over 1,100 airlines and a market of over 7 billion potential flyers, only a limited number of airlines handle multiple flight legs and millions of passengers. Across the different metrics of global revenue[4], fleet size[5], and number of passengers[6], American Airlines is consistently number one.

Source: Flightglobal

How many international airlines are there in the world?

The IATA and ICAO, leading groups in aviation and the airline industry, has assigned airline codes to over 5,000 airlines that offer local, regional, and international airlines. The actual number of commercial airlines total 1,126. Europe has the highest number of commercial airlines while the Australasian and Pacific region has the smallest.

Source: IATA, ICAO

Airlines with the most international flights

There are 195 countries where people can travel to—flights come and go to these countries; international flights available from various global carriers. An unexpected airline, Turkish Airlines, earns the top spot operating flights to 62% of the world’s countries[7]. It’s strategic location—a middle point for Europe, Asia, and Africa—allows it to service over 60 million passengers a year.

Source: Green Claim

Airlines with most canceled flights

Flight delays and cancellations are common occurrences in airports. Flight cancellations cost American commercial airlines $22 billion annually[8]. The year 2001 saw the highest number of flight cancellations from major American carriers with 231,200 canceled flights. The lowest number of flight cancellations was in 2002 at 65,140.

These disruptions came after the 9/11 attacks; a time when airport check-ins and security saw an extensive overhaul and TSA patdowns and body searches became the norm. Cancellations for 2019 saw an increase of 5.74% with rates climbing back again since 2017. In January 2020, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics states domestic flight cancellations were at 1.3%, higher than December 2019 rates (1.1%) but 64.52% lower compared to January 2019 rates (3.15).

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistic

Airlines with the most delayed flights

The Air Travel Consumer Report for January 2020 points to Alaska Airlines Network as the marketing carrier with the lowest on-time arrival rate of 77.9%. The rate is considerably better when compared to 2019’s average on-time rate—79% which translates to 1 in 5 significantly delayed flights.  Hawaiian Airlines has been first on the on-time list since 2003.

Source: US Department of Transportation

Airline with most on-time flights

Data from the US Department of Transportation reveals an 84.6% on-time arrival rate in January 2020 among commercial passenger airlines. The rate saw an increase in on-time arrivals when compared to the previous month and previous year—December 2020, 78.2% and January 2019, 78.4%.

Source: Cirium

Airline flight stats by country

Airline travel has been growing exponentially. The growth of the global middle-class coupled with lower airfares and budget airlines have made flying accessible for many. Reasons for air travel can be broken down into three: business, personal leisure, and personal non-leisure.

Source: IPSOS; A4A

Traveler growth is led by the Asia Pacific region, with travelers from China at the forefront. Worldwide passenger traffic and market share from the APAC region lead with 32% and 45.42% respectively.

Source: Flightglobal

Source: Oliver Wyman; Website (

Countries with the most number of flights

The US leads in number of passengers carried, 889 million, in 2018. International flights typically use an Airbus A380 which has a seating capacity of 868. From the figures, we can project 1,024,193 million flights for 2018.

Source: ICAO;

The numbers can be confusing with stats claiming varied data about air travel in the US.

Although incomes are dropping and its middle-class is shrinking, the US remains a popular tourist destination and continues to be a tourist draw. Its biggest market is local – 67.3% are intraregional travelers while the other 32.71% flew to other continents.

Source: UN World Tourism Organization

Which country goes abroad the most?

Finland tops the list of countries whose people travel the most. The Northern European country averaged 7.5 trips per person per year. The US is in second place with 6.7 trips per person but leads in domestic trips with 6.5 trips per person; data corroborates intraregional traveler data in the previous section. All of the ten countries in the list are classified as First World with high living standards.


Traveler demographics and behaviors

Traveler preferences and attitudes have changed post-9/11 alongside sweeping technological advancements in the airline industry. General traveler satisfaction after a flight is steady at 75% for the last three years (2017 – 2019). The scores vary depending on location with Africa garnering the lowest passenger satisfaction score of 40%.


Passenger satisfaction drivers include check-in—self-service or traditional, boarding, inflight entertainment, and border control and immigration among others. The last of the aforementioned hovers at 62% – 64% based on the results from 2017 – 2019.

Source: IATA

What age group travels the most?

The general and widely held view is that Millenials and Gen-Z are the age groups that travel the most. Data from IATA’s Global Passenger Survey reveal three age groups who travel the most: Gen Y, Millenials, and Gen X. Of the three, Millenials or those in the 35–44 year-old range flies the most, internationally and domestically.

Source: IATA

Traveler preferences based on gender

Business travel arrangements were primarily booked by women as stated in a ClosinGap[9] study. Some of the interesting outcomes from the survey include: Women prefer using shared transport services over private vehicles. They also organize their trips earlier compared to men and use digital channels to make reservations.

The Global Passenger Survey, on the other hand, reports that women are less willing to share personal information or to use biometrics as a replacement for travel documents. Combined opinions from both genders show 70% are willing to share their biometric identifiers while less than half would prefer biometric identification instead of a paper passport.

Percentage of Passengers Who Prefer Biometrics as Travelling Token

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Source: IATA

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Which gender travels more?

IATA’s study shows a 41.27% skew in favor of males when it comes to travel. Data for the last five years show that men travel three times more than women. The same ClosinGap study points out that although men travel more, women spend more during travel. Travel expenses are centered on hotels and tourist services. The study further notes that if women were to travel as much as men did, they would be able to generate 2.35 billion euros a year.

Airline Revenue

The IATA and ICAO report worldwide revenue based on passenger air traffic at $567 billion for 2019. Market projections for 2020 were positive in the last quarter of 2019 with 40.3 million flights forecasted. This approximates to an expected $581 billion in revenue earnings for 2020.

Source: IATA; ICAO

Two leading airline groups are neck and neck in revenues earned for 2019: American Airlines with $44.54 billion and Delta Airlines with $44.44 billion. FedEx, at number five with $37.33 billion, does not fly passengers commercially but only deals in moving cargo.

Source: Flightglobal

Airline travel in the time of COVID-19

Major adjustments were seen in the market projections of airlines in recent weeks in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Major airlines scrambled to reshuffle and reschedule flights[10] with multiple countries crossing its borders effectively shutting down travel. Business Insider reports over 50 airlines have scaled back operations or have temporarily shut down due to loss of demand for flights.

Countries With Completely Closed Borders Due To Covid-19

1. Canada 21. Spain
2. Chile 22. Germany
3. Argentina 23. Denmark
4. Bolivia 24. Greece
5. Peru 25. Serbia
6. Panama 26. Hungary
7. Colombia 27. Ukraine
8. Suriname 28. Poland
9. Ecuador 29. Latvia
10. Costa Rica 30. Kazakhstan
11. Honduras 31. Uzbekistan
12. El Salvador 32. Yemen
13. Guatemala 33. Saudi Arabia
14. Ghana 34. Iraq
15. Cameroonm 35. Oman
16. Kenya 36. Sri lanka
17. Sudan 37. Malaysia
18. Libya 38. Philippines
19. Tunisia 39. Australia
20. Egypt 40. New Zealand
Source: Al Jazeera[11]



  1. ^How many flights are operated in a day, worldwide?
  2. ^Air Traffic By The Numbers
  3. ^Boeing CEO: Over 80% of the world has never taken a flight. We’re leveraging that for growth
  4. ^Boeing CEO: Over 80% of the world has never taken a flight. We’re leveraging that for growth
  5. ^Leading airline groups worldwide in 2018, based on revenue (in billion U.S. dollars)*
  6. ^Top global airlines in 2019, by fleet size*
  7. ^Leading airline groups worldwide in 2018, based on passengers
  8. ^Turkish Airlines Now Fly To An Incredible 125 Countries
  9. ^An Answer to Flight Delays?
  10. ^ClosinGap – nforme_-Conciliacon_EN.pdf
  11. ^Master List Of All Major International Airline Coronavirus Change And Cancellation Policies
Louie Andre

By Louie Andre

B2B & SaaS market analyst and senior writer for FinancesOnline. He is most interested in project management solutions, believing all businesses are a work in progress. From pitch deck to exit strategy, he is no stranger to project business hiccups and essentials. He has been involved in a few internet startups including a digital route planner for a triple A affiliate. His advice to vendors and users alike? "Think of benefits, not features."

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