Continents Shifting, Clouds Gathering: The Trajectory of Global Aviation Expansion

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Book Chapter

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Purpose The chapter discusses two main themes: shifts in the global geography of aviation toward the developing world and several threats to the future growth of air transportation. The past two decades have witnessed a remarkable realignment of air passenger and air cargo traffic toward middle-income countries and the hubs within those countries.

Method The chapter documents these shifts, drawing on analyses of airline capacity around the world in 1998 and 2012. Given more rapid population and economic growth in Asia, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America, further such developments seem likely. However, the chapter also reviews some of the principal challenges confronting aviation in its second century. These include the higher price of oil, the political challenges involved in building new airport infrastructure (especially in rich democracies), and efforts to limit the increase in greenhouse gas emissions and other air transportation externalities.

Findings The chapter concludes that none of these challenges is very likely to reverse the long-term growth of air traffic but will instead intersect with the broader shift toward emerging markets to produce a still more complex geography of air services. The chapter further contends that the continued expansion of aviation will bring both daunting challenges to the world but also new opportunities to the low-income countries still marginalized in today’s airline networks.


This book chapter was originally published in Sustainable Aviation Futures. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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