China beats India to become the world’s fastest growing aviation market

Go higher.
Go higher.
Image: EPA/Divyakant Solanki
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

India’s 23-month-long reign as the world’s fastest-growing aviation market is over.

In March, passenger traffic in China’s domestic aviation market grew by 15.1% year-on-year, beating India’s 14.6% growth, to claim the top spot, according to data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global airline industry’s trade association.

China’s performance was the best in nearly two years, and a substantial jump from the 9.1% growth registered by the country’s domestic aviation sector in February 2017. “The solid upward trend in traffic is underpinned by ongoing robust growth in the country’s services sector,” among other factors, IATA noted in its monthly analysis (pdf).

India, meanwhile, saw passenger growth plummet to levels not seen since September 2015. “This is the first possible sign of reduced cash supply and wider economic uncertainty weighing on demand,” IATA said, referring to the Narendra Modi government’s demonetisation move in November last year, which pulled high-value notes out of the economy overnight. The analysis, however, noted that domestic passenger volumes in India had grown at a double-digit annual pace for 31 consecutive months.

The slowdown in passenger volume growth comes at the time when the Modi government is attempting to expand the aviation market. Last month, Modi launched the UDAN regional connectivity scheme, which will initially bring in five airlines to fly 128 new routes and connect 45 un-served or under-served airports.

In all, it’s been a good few years. Growth has been strong, airlines have returned to raking in the moolah and a new government policy has extended further support to the civil aviation sector. And new players, including the likes of Qatar Airways, are lining up for a piece of India’s $16-billion aviation market, poised to become the world’s third largest by 2020.