ASIA showed the most growth in air travel between 2011 and 2012, and is also the world's most competitive aviation market, according to a study by Amadeus.
The study found that Asia was tops in terms of absolute passenger volume, moving 787 million passengers in 2012, up from 724 million in 2011. These figures translate to a nine per cent year-on-year increase, the highest growth rate globally.
Latin America showed the second highest growth rate with six per cent, but lagged behind Asia in passenger numbers – from 178 million passengers in 2011 to 189 million in 2012.
The study also reported that competition was most intense in Asia, where 75 per cent of the region’s air routes are operated by three or more airlines, and 27 per cent by five or more airlines. In contrast, 55 per cent of routes in Europe are operated by three or more airlines and 12 per cent by five or more. For the Middle East, the figures are 50 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
The intense competition in Asia could be due to the high concentration of passengers on a low number of routes, where 85 per cent of travel from the region is concentrated on routes that carry over 100,000 passengers a year.
Such statistics indicate opportunities for airlines to develop secondary links beyond the competitive super routes. While larger routes with over 100,000 passengers see annual growth of four to nine per cent, smaller and medium-sized routes are leaping forward by 19-21 per cent.
Unsurprisingly, seven of the world’s top ten busiest air routes are dominated by Asian domestic travel. Jeju-Seoul boasted the largest number of passengers for 2012, followed by Sapporo-Tokyo in second place. Beijing-Shanghai took fourth place, Osaka-Tokyo was at sixth, Fukuoka-Tokyo held seventh, Hong Kong-Taipei remained eighth and Okinawa-Tokyo debuted at ninth.
However, the Middle East is pulling ahead as an increasingly important global air travel hub. The three key airports of Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai collectively serve 15 per cent of all traffic from Asia to Europe and Europe to the South-west Pacific. Europe-Asia traffic via the Middle East is growing at 20 per cent annually.
Europe still retains the title for having the highest concentration of LCC traffic or 38 per cent of total air travel in 2012, compared to Asia’s 19 per cent.